Hopkins and Kirkwood savour Trophy triumph

Matlock Town v FC Halifax Town FA trophy. Ted Cribley.

Matlock Town v FC Halifax Town FA trophy. Ted Cribley.

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Matlock Town’s joint management team believes progress in the FA Trophy was nothing but well-deserved for their side.

The Gladiators dumped holders FC Halifax Town out of this season’s competition at the first time of asking in their own back yard.

Tuesday night’s replay was evidence of Matlock’s fine season to date taking yet another impressive step forward.

And the Gladiators’ joint bosses Glenn Kirkwood and Craig Hopkins were all smiles afterwards.

“I’m simply buzzing, it was totally deserved,” said Kirkwood. Hopkins was more detailed in his assessment of his side’s shock win.

He said: “It was a great result and is the best at any club we’ve managed. It’s a scalp, there’s no doubt about that, to beat the cup holders from a higher division on their home ground, and remember, be the best side in both games.

“We knew it would be difficult at Halifax, but with this set of lads we’re not really surprised, each and every one of them is extremely capable. It’s also not the first time they’ve come out on top when a lot of people expected them not to win. When we went to Workington we weren’t given much of a chance at all but won there 3-1 twice in a week. We’ve got a set of lads with the desire to do well and I’m sure the fans can see that.”

An 81st-minute leveller from the Shaymens’ Alex Simmons cancelled out Curtis Morrison’s 44th-minute opener to give the Conference North outfit a rather fortunate replay.

Halifax looked hot favourites but Matlock had other ideas. Morrison played a key part in all three Matlock goals in the replay, as a Marcus Dinanga brace gave the Gladiators a two-goal half-time lead.

Halifax rallied and were level by the 67th-minute, but Ted Cribley stepped up to the plate to fire Matlock into the 1st Round Proper and a clash at Conference National Solihull Moors on Saturday week.

Hopkins said his side should have won the tie at the first time of asking at the DCJ Group Arena.

“We were disappointed not to win on Saturday,” he said. “It got to the point late on when we thought we’d taken the sting out of it a little bit, then football has a nasty habit of biting you on the backside.

“But we knew it was a big open pitch at Halifax and we said we’d come here and give it a right good go. The players were excellent right through from one to eleven. There’s some now tired, a little quiet but chuffed to bits because they’ve given everything, that’s all we can ask of them.”

One of the standout facets of the victory was the combination of young forwards Morrison and Dinanga as Halifax struggled to contain them in both matches.

“Our front two have been superb, 19-year-old boys learning their trade, a real handful and popular in the dressing room, and we like to think that we as managers, plus the rest of the players, have helped them for they’re both giving us everything they’ve got.”

Hopkins and Kirkwood’s philosophy is to take one game at a time so that means all of their attention is set on Saturday’s league trip to Stafford Rangers and there was a word of warning from Hopkins about Stafford.

“We know what Stafford are like, similar to Barwell, big, strong and organised. I’m good pals with their manager, we know how they play so it’ll be a big test on their pitch,” he added.“We’ve had a week off the league, but were poor in our last league match at Barwell, but we’ll be back on Saturday looking to win the game and hopefully be full of confidence after Halifax.”

Matlock then travel to Ilkeston in the Derbyshire Senior Cup on Tuesday.