Matlock Town have suffered another blow in what has been a difficult campaign with top scorer Shaun Harrad being ruled out for the rest of the season.
The Gladiators pulled off a coup by signing the 33 year old former Notts County, Burton Albion and Cheltenham Town striker in the summer and he has repaid joint bosses Glenn Kirkwood and Craig Hopkins’ faith in him by netting 22 league and cup goals.
But a troublesome ankle injury finally caught up with him after playing through the pain barrier and Harrad had an operation on Monday.
Even with 10 games left to play, he seems likely to remain as the Gladiators top scorer unless someone else hits an extremely rich vein of scoring form in the remaining six weeks of the campaign.
“The operation went well but that’s him done for the season,” said Hopkins.
“He’s been absolutely superb for us and now it’s up to someone else to step up to the mark.
“Shaun’s been playing in pain for a while now and very few people were aware of that, so all credit to him for his performances and the way he’s gone about his business. He’s been a true professional.”
Harrad signed off for the season with a well taken goal that put Matlock into a first half lead against Farsley Celtic last Saturday, but following a couple of snowstorms, Matlock lost their way and lost by the odd goal in three to the play off contenders. That scoreline was the exact reverse of the clash in West Yorkshire in January.
“We played really well in the first half and for the first 10 minutes of the second half before the interruption there wasn’t much in it, we didn’t look in much danger but when the players came back out again it was a matter of Farsley coping better with the conditions than we did,” said Hopkins.
“It was like an ice rink out there and definitely the worst conditions I’ve known while I’ve been in football. It made it a bit of a false game and in the last 20 odd minutes the snow was blowing straight into our lads’ faces. We found it difficult to get out of our own half.”
Hopkins though was pleased with the first half display, apart from the finishing as the Gladiators should have made a good deal more of their superiority by having a more emphatic lead by the the interval.
“We had enough chances in the first half to have won easily but if you continue to miss chances then you’ll be punished.
“We moved the ball well, Ricky German would have been disappointed not to have scored twice while Curtis Morrison and Shaun Harrad both went close. The first half saw us carry on from the Nantwich game, we looked to be well in control,” said Hopkins.
Stalybridge Celtic have now moved above Matlock after three successive splendid away wins at Workington, Altrincham and Nantwich Town.
The Gladiators are now down in 20th spot. They are two points behind their opponents on Saturday, Rushall Olympic, ahead of the clash at Dales Lane, having played one game more.
“It’s a six pointer,” Hopkins admitted.
“It’ll be a tough game for since Alvin McDonald has taken over as manager, they’ve probably been one of the top six or seven sides in the league.
“They’ve got a good, strong squad who play it hard but can also play some good football.
“Our lads were gutted at the end of the game on Saturday but with the first half performance we couldn’t be too downhearted.
“Now we want to repeat the show at Nantwich and the first half last weekend.”