Play-off final defeat still hurts for Matlock Town boss as changes are planned
A week on from their NPL Premier Division play-off semi-final defeat at Scarborough, Matlock Town manager Paul Phillips is still feeling the intensity of the pain from losing (writes Ian Richardson)
Scarborough beat the Gladiators 2-1 and went on to win promotion to National League North after beating Warrington Town by the same scoreline at the Flamingo Land Stadium on Monday afternoon.
And for Phillips, the defeat still hurts.
He said: “I’m still hugely disappointed. I’d like to think we’ve made progress but we’re still in the same league, we’ve not won a trophy and I still feel deflated like I did last week.
How Chesterfield could line-up against Notts County in big National League clash
Early Chesterfield injury news ahead of Notts County clash
Chesterfield expect 'totally different challenge' against Notts County after Wrexham win
Chesterfield fans poke fun at Wrexham's Rob McElhenney tweet after Spireites win comfortably
Why Chesterfield's win against Wrexham was inspired by players not involved in matchday squad
"I know why we didn’t get over the line and we’re working on it to find a remedy. The nucleus of what we want is here, we don’t need massive surgery, things just want tweaking a bit on the player and management sides. We’ve got a lot of lads who’ve done really well that we’ll be looking to keep.”
The Matlock fans will now have realised that they have a manager who wears his heart on his sleeve.
He added: “I’m still disappointed, that’s the way I am, call me miserable or whatever, but I just don’t like losing. I thought we’d got enough to see us over the line, congratulations to Scarborough, it’s all about small margins. For some of our lads it’s the first time they’ve been in the play-offs so it’s a learning curve for the younger players.”
As Phillips emphasised during the final throws of the season, Matlock have been excellent defensively but putting the ball in the opposition’s net has been their achilles heel.
He said: “If we’d been leaking goals as well as not scoring enough, we’d have had big problems and be further away from where we are now.
"The likes of Ryan Qualter, there’s no better centre half than him at this level or in the league above and Ioan Evans who’s proved to be a tremendous signing and done well in abundance since we lost Sam Egerton.
"Joe in goal has come in and been superb, I’d like to have him again next year but realistically Wolves will want him to develop at a higher level such as the National League.
"We’ve had to use five goalkeepers this season for one reason or another too which makes our defensive record look even more impressive.”
So Phillips knows it’s now a matter of trying to improve on what nevertheless has been a good campaign which yielded a fourth placed finish.
He said: “The lads need time to recuperate. We’ve got a lot of winners in that team, we know goals have been the problem, that needs addressing and we’ve irons in the fire as it’s something we’ve got to address. We’ve made plenty of chances in most games so I don’t think it’s a matter of us not being expansive enough. It's just that we’ve not had anyone to put them away.”
Despite indifferent form towards the end of the campaign, there has been a supportive response from the Matlock fans.
Phillips addded: “The support’s been brilliant. There’s always a lull and unfortunately ours came at the wrong time. The atmosphere at the Warrington home game the other week was amazing.
"We had an outstanding start and although probably a lot of people would have accepted a mid-table finish, when you start the way we did, expectations rise especially when there’s a chance of going up.”
Now the Matlock fans can say their own thank you to their team at the Presentation Night in the Shorts Lounge on Friday night (7.30pm start).
Admission is free, with a buffet provided, entertainment from singer Danny Graves and an auction of sports memorabilia plus, of course, the presentation of the season’s awards including the supporters’ Player of the Year.
“It’ll be good to see everyone again and thank them for their backing all season, it promises to be a great night,” said the Matlock boss.
The Gladiators have confirmed a pre-season visit to Macclesfield, owned by former Welsh international and Derby midfielder Robbie Savage, on Tuesday 19 July.
The Silkmen won the North West Counties League Premier Division last season and will be in the NPL Western Division in 2022/23.