Glenn Kirkwood has heaped praise on the Matlock Town squad and hopes he can do the same after Saturday’s reunion local derby at Mickleover Sports.
Kirkwood returns to the club he left in the summer, after three seasons as joint boss with Craig Hopkins.
And with former Sports coach Danny Cox and defenders Nico de Girolamo and Dwayne Wiley also having moved to Matlock, the game has the potential to become a significant reunion.
But Kirkwood is trying to play things down.
“Okay it’s a big game for Hoppo and me, but it’s not the be all and end all, we will though be wanting to carry on our excellent little run and get the three points,” he said.
The joint boss is well aware that the Gladiators have lost every competitive game they have played at the Don Amott Arena while Sports have been in the Evo-Stik NPL.
September has certainly been a fruitful month for the Gladiators with four successive victories in the league and FA Cup, and with only a single point separating seventh placed Sports from ninth in the table Matlock, a close game looks to be on the cards.
FA Cup progress was achieved last weekend at Kidsgrove.
An equaliser by Ted Cribley and a last gasp spot kick from Marc Newsham earned £4,500 from the prize fund and a home tie with NPL rivals Workington next weekend.
Matlock were dominant, as they were when they returned to league fare at Coalville on Tuesday.
This time the scoreline was much more convincing as a Newsham brace in the opening half was followed by a double from Michael Williams after the interval in a 4-1 scoreline.
“We’ve had a settled side this past three or four games and we can’t praise the lads enough,” said Kirkwood.
“We know we’ve got some very good footballers and the workrate they’re putting in is unbelievable, not just in games but at training as well. They treat training just as if it’s a game and now at the moment they’re getting what they deserve. Wins breed confidence, they’re going about their work with a smile on their faces, they want to work and battle for each other, there’s a real togetherness.”
Reflecting more on the last two victories Kirkwood added “Make no mistake, Coalville are a good side who’ve more than held their own this season after promotion and you can’t take that away from them. We’ve outworked them, it’s our workrate that allows us to play like we have. At Kidsgrove it looked as if it would be one of those days when they went in front, but we kept going, we worked extremely hard and in the end got what we deserved. At 1-1 we could have said we’ll have that and take them back to our place, but our hard work saw us home and we’re delighted to have got through.”
Kirkwood believes that a home tie in the third qualifying round is “all you can hope for” but the FA Cup has been put on the backburner for now.
“We’ve two big games before then,” he stressed. “We’re on a little run and we have to carry it on.”
The Gladiators are back at the DCJ Group Insurance Arena on Tuesday when a recently rejuvenated Frickley Athletic are the visitors.
Former Matlock striker Lee Morris took over as manager of Frickley three weeks ago when they were bottom of the table without a point and out of the FA Cup, but they’ve picked up seven points from their last three games.