League the focus for Atkins
Wednesday night's disappointing 1-0 home defeat by Frickley Athletic in the 4th Round of the Doodson Sports League Cup means that the Reynolds Stadium trophy cabinet looks set to remain bare this season.
The old cliche of "now we can concentrate on the league" comes into being as the Doodson Cup was the Gladiators' last chance of a trophy following their surprise 2-1 extra time defeat at New Mills in the Derbyshire Senior Cup before Christmas.
And if Matlock are to achieve any success in the league, they need to gather a host of points to gain a play off place. It has to be said their chances are slim at present given their current eleventh position which sees them eight points adrift of Marine in fifth and having played more games than many of their play off rivals.
After their 3-0 home win against Frickley last weekend which brought about their first league victory in nine games and their first league double of the campaign, manager Mark Atkins was upbeat.
"It was a very good result and naturally I was pleased at winning so comfortably" he said after a brace from top scorer Ian Holmes and a third from winger Ben Hunter gave Matlock a deserved victory against a Frickley side who submitted with barely a whimper to go down to a sixth successive league defeat.
"We also wanted the clean sheet. I'd said to the players that if we got the clean sheet then we'd get the win we badly wanted. Apart from a couple of scrambles in our box in the first half when they'd got the wind in their favour, they never gave us any problems. Obviously the sending off (of Ollie Ryan) helped us, but we were ahead by then anyway and I don't think it'd have made a difference. Now we've got to use this result as a springboard for the rest of the season and pick up as many points as we can and see where that takes us. It'll be hard to reach that top five but we have to keep going until it's mathematically impossible to reach those play offs."
Holmes had been struggling for form since returning to the side a after a knee injury, but the hope is that his two goals will reignite his season.
"I had a chat with Ian at training on the Thursday before the game and basically said to him to get back to doing the good things he was doing before the injury. He'd been short on confidence and the two goals should have helped restore that. The second goal in particular was brilliantly taken, it was a great header."
But it was a different Atkins who was an angry man after watching a different Matlock performance in the cup game. A problem for Matlock was that all of their natural wingers in Chris Bettney, Ben Algar, Ben Hunter and Craig Nelthorpe were sidelined through a being injured or suspended while Lee Morris, man of the match against one of his old clubs last Saturday, Steve Warne and Lee Whittington were all cup tied having played for Belper Town in the early rounds of the competition. Oscar Radford has returned to Doncaster Rovers, his maximum three months loan at Matlock having expired at the weekend.
Scott Bibby was given a chance to impress and TJ Nightingale was back after suspension with three under nineteen stars in James Whitfield, who should have marked his debut with a goal, James Travis and Matthew Wilkinson on the bench, but even given the absences, Matlock should have put on a better show. Even then though they could have won it as after falling behind to a deflected Danny Walsh shot on 28 minutes, they missed three gilt edged chances, including Holmes hitting the bar with a header from point blank range, and Gareth Davies also rattling the bar from further out.
Atkins blasted the performance.
"The only thing I've learned tonight is that some of the players we have here aren't good enough" he snarled. "We were poor in every department of the pitch. There was no desire out there and you have to have that when you play Frickley. We had that last Saturday so it's difficult to understand why it wasn't there on Wednesday when some lads had a great opportunity to show me what they could do. We missed our flair players, all too often we launched the ball aimlessly forward, I like my sides to play football and there wasn't one decent passing move. We had chances but I've told the players exactly how I feel. Some of them have done themselves no favours at all. When we get the full squad back,I want to see my team playing more football."
The inference now is that Atkins' patience with certain players is paper thin. He was hoping to speak to a player this week, the seven days notice put in with his current club having elapsed.
Matlock head to Chasetown this weekend and Atkins will be hoping that his side show more ingenuity than in midweek in what promises to be a tough challenge. The Scholars have had an up and down season, currently lying in 15th spot, three points behind the Gladiators with a game in hand. Their inconsistency is summed up with a fine local derby 1-0 win at title chasing Hednesford Town on Boxing Day, yet last Saturday they went down 2-0 at struggling Whitby Town, this being the Seasiders' first home league win of the campaign.
"We were second best there last season so we know we have to go there and perform, needless to say I'll be looking for a big improvement from the midweek game" said Atkins.
Definitely still out on Saturday is Nelthorpe (suspended for a sending off with Winterton Rangers before his move to Matlock), Algar (recovering from a groin problem and is a week or so away from a return) and Bettney (damaged ribs) while Davies faces a fitness test after pulling his thigh on Wednesday. On the plus side Liam King will be fit despite a second half knock in midweek, while Morris and Warne will be back in the frame along with Hunter who sat out the Frickley game through suspension after his unfortunate red card against Buxton on Boxing Day.
Whittington however will not feature for he is moving to Frickley after the Yorkshire club enquired about his availability with him not getting a regular game at Matlock.
"The lad wants to play, I can well understand that and I can't hold the lad back" said Atkins.
Next weekend Matlock travel to Kendal with transport departing the Reynolds Stadium at 9.30 am. Ring Tom Wright on 07850 065968 or the Club Shop (01629 583866) to book your place on the coach.
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