All to play for at the top as Matlock Town remain leaders

In-form Mickleover handed their Derbyshire NPL rivals Buxton and Matlock Town a major boost with a 1-0 home win over South Shields on Tuesday evening to make it skin tight at the top of the league (writes Ian Richardson)

By Mark Duffy
Wednesday, 16th February 2022, 9:04 am
Updated Wednesday, 16th February 2022, 9:04 am
Matlock boss Paul Phillips believes the title race is wide open.
Matlock boss Paul Phillips believes the title race is wide open.

Mickleover’s fifth successive victory eased them further away from the relegation zone and also ensured that the Gladiators remain as league leaders going into this weekend’s fixtures.

Shields failed to make the most of their game in hand over Matlock who have a one point advantage over the Mariners with both sides now having 13 games left.

Buxton sit in third, two points behind their A6 neighbours, having played a game more.

Matlock face Radcliffe at home on Saturday before travelling for a crucial clash at South Shields on Tuesday. Shields visit Lancaster on Saturday, while the Bucks host Gainsborough Trinity.

Matlock boss Paul Phillips says it is now important that the Gladiators do something for themselves after a three-game winless run which has yielded only two points, with results elsewhere recently working in their favour to retain their top dog status when it looked as if they would be knocked off their perch.

Phillips said: “It’ll be a boost if we win the next game, the next game and the one after that. We must also remember there’s not just South Shields to worry about, other sides are putting in a strong challenge so it’s important that we do what we need to so we can stay in front.

"Recent results show the competitiveness of the league. Obviously Mickleover beating South Shields being a prime example, but on Saturday Hyde beat Warrington, Grantham have come from behind to beat Ashton, Nantwich have hit five at Stalybridge. There’s no easy games.”

This Saturday’s opponents Radcliffe are having a mixed season but Phillips reckons they will come to Matlock to express themselves.

He said: “I’ve seen Radcliffe a few times and they’re a good team, they had a good unbeaten run a bit back, they’re no mugs and the pressure is off them and they’ll come wanting to express themselves. But it’s down to us to get pour show back on the road.

“We want this pressure - it’s better to be in this position than struggling near the bottom.”

While admitting that making the long trip to South Shields in midweek is a ‘massive ask’, Phillips says that Matlock’s full attention must be focused on Radcliffe first.

He said: “Going up there in midweek’s unfortunate but it’s Saturday first. Their loss on Tuesday is obviously good for us, it keeps us in front and we’ll have to see what Saturday brings. It’s important that we get the right result ourselves first.”

Midfielder Alex Wiles came off in the 2-2 draw at Whitby with a hamstring injury which kept him out of training on Tuesday so he will need to be assessed ahead of the weekend. Defender Ioan Evans also took a whack on the leg at Whitby while striker Jack Hindle was left out of the 16 with Phillips saying he needs to build up his fitness more.

He said: “We’ve got a good squad, Shaun Rowley’s knocking on the door and we’ve got 17, 18 lads looking for a start. If someone’s out it’s up to the others to come in and earn their place in the eleven or on the bench.”

Goalkeeper Paul Cooper, meanwhile, has been turning out for Longridge Town but remains part of Phillips’ plans.