Performances the key for Atkins
Matlock boss Mark Atkins isn't too concerned with who the Gladiators have to face in their final five league games of the season - even though Matlock face some tough matches. He'll be concentrating more on how his side perform.
It's been a case of bouquets and brickbats in the last two games.
After watching his team go down with honour when champions elect Chester scraped a 1-0 victory at the Reynolds Stadium a fortnight ago, he praised his players.
But last weekend's 2-0 defeat at Worksop, who had lost their previous five home league matches, led to Atkins being critical of them and now he has issued them with a challenge.
"Prove to me that you want to stay here next season" is Atkins' battle cry as the season's climax begins with their Easter programme consisting of Saturday's home meeting with Marine before their derby clash against Buxton at the Silverlands on Monday afternoon.
"Strong words were said after the Worksop game" Atkins revealed. "It was very frustrating and disappointing particularly as Worksop were there for the taking. We'd played very well against Chester and I told the players they'd set the standard for the rest of the season but we were very poor at Worksop. I thought we started quite well but once they'd got the goal it was all downhill after that. I'm not bothered who we've got to play in the remaining games, I'm more concerned with our performances and now it's up to the lads to stand up and be counted and show me they want to stay at this football club next season."
Matlock are not totally safe yet but it would take some excellent results from the strugglers coupled with the Gladiators having a disasterous time for Atkins' men to finish in the relegation places.
Their home form has accounted chiefly for their mid table position which on Saturday will be severely tested by seventh placed Marine who boast the best away record in the division. The Liverpudlians have won thirteen of their nineteen away league games and have been beaten just twice. Ten home league defeats have let them down, explaining why they are not challenging Chester for pole position, although they still are in contention for a play off place.
Then comes the derby at Buxton who have collected fifteen out of the last twenty one points on offer to ease their way out of the bottom four. The Bucks will probably fancy their chances against a Matlock side with just two league away wins all season.
Atkins made just the one addition to his ranks on transfer deadline day last week when former Chesterfield midfielder Ben Watkis signed. Watkis was released by the Spireites at the end of December and since then Watkis has scarcely played and trained very little, perhaps explaining his exclusion from the squad at Worksop. He will be there to add to the Gladiators' numbers in the run in.
Probably the best news was that on loan striker or midfielder Lewis McMahon will remain at the Reynolds Stadium for the rest of the season after all. Initially McMahon, who has scored four times for the Gladiators, was due to return to parent club Gainsborough Trinity after last week's game.
"We spoke to Gainsborough again as Lewis has done very well for us and they've let him stay but on a 24 hour recall. We're very pleased to have him for the rest of the season" Atkins explained.
Fans attending Saturday's game are being asked to bring items of unwanted football kit with them as the Easter weekend is Kit Aid Weekend in the Evo-Stik NPL. Kit Aid is a charity which helps underprivileged children and adults throughout the world.
"Fans can bring down shirts, shorts, socks, football boot, shin pads etc and leave them at the Club shop, Kit Aid will do the rest" said a Matlock spokesman. "We're delighted to join the rest of the clubs in the league in this magnificent project and we encourage fans to support it. We'll accept kit until the end of the season."
Matlock's Annual Presentation Night will take place in the Social Club on Friday April 27. There will also be a buffet and disco and admission is free.
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