Gladiators bosses keen to build on fine away win

Matlock stopped the rot with their surprise, impressive and deserved 2-0 win at Nantwich on Tuesday night but joint managers Glenn Kirkwood and Craig Hopkins say all of their focus is now on Saturday's home clash with Stourbridge.

Wednesday, 7th March 2018, 11:05 am
Updated Wednesday, 7th March 2018, 11:20 am
Curtis Morrison in action at Nantwich on Tuesday. Photo by Jonathan White.

The Gladiators had conceded three times in each of their preceeding five outings, their last four ending in defeat.

So to keep their first clean sheet since November 25 and gain revenge for a 3-0 home defeat by Nantwich in November was sweet to say the least for Hopkins.

He said: “The most frustrating thing is that we’re capable of performances like these, it’s what our sides are all about.

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“All ten outfield players worked so hard. We knew how we wanted to play and had prepared for it, also having a good chat with the players before kick off.

“Nantwich are a good side with the ball but we knew that if we made one or two good passes after winning possession then we could catch them out. We pushed them back, we harried them, we chased them, we won the ball back in good areas in the final third and created chances. That’s how the first goal has come about. Everyone knew their jobs and they all stuck to their task admirably.”

The managers agreed it was their best away performance, surpassing the victories at Workington and Farsley Celtic, but Kirkwood fired a warning shot ahead of the Stourbridge game.

“We don’t want a repeat of what happened after we won at Farsley in midweek when we went to Stafford and were awful. We’d considered giving the lads the night off training on Thursday but we’ll have them in, work them hard as we’d done before Nantwich and look for the same level of performance.

“There’ll be no patting ourselves on the back and getting excited. We need to show graft as we did on Tuesday and we want to do it in front of our own fans for we’ve not given them enough to shout about so far this season.”

Matlock signed 20-year-old goalkeeper Richard Walton on loan from Lincoln City for the rest of the season when it became clear that regular custodian and current fans player of the year Phil Barnes would be out for longer than was first thought with a leg injury.

Walton replaced youngster Jordan Pierrepont who deputised for Barnes in the defeat at Halesowen, Matlock having sent Pierrepont out to Heanor Town to gain vital first team experience.

Walton made a competent debut against Nantwich, capping it with two excellent saves near the end.

“Those two saves at the end were superb and he’s had a great debut,” said Hopkins.

“We thought at first Barnesy would only be out for a week with a dead leg but it’s still swollen so we’ve got to play it by ear and at this moment in time we can’t say how long he’ll be out.

“We’re delighted to have Richard with us and it’s a big thanks to Danny Cowley and Lincoln City for making this happen. As well as we’ve played and deserved the victory, the two great saves were important because sides of Nantwich’s quality will get chances in games.”

Matlock were once again left without a game last Saturday due to the heavy snow which wiped out the whole of the league programme in all three divisions of the Evo-Stik League.

The scheduled visit of Ashton United was called off last Friday morning after the Evo-Stik League had given special consent for matches to be postponed early to save unnecessary travel and cost by visiting clubs and match officials.

The game has now been rearranged for Tuesday, April 24, while the home meeting with Rushall Olympic being fixed for Tuesday April 17.

Meanwhile, the Gladiators have also signed academy captain Ashton Hall on a long term contract. The 17-year-old defender is the youngest ever homegrown product to sign a contract at Matlock.

Hopkins said: “He’s a good young lad with lots of potential and we wanted to have him on the bench at Nantwich but confirmation of the signing from the authorities didn’t come through in time.

“He needs to continue to work hard and we’ll be looking to help him along.”