Mark Atkins feels that Monday night’s emphatic 5-1 home win against Ashton United is just rewards for the efforts of the Gladiators’ players since he and Adam Yates took interim charge just under a month ago.
“The players have kept going, they’ve been working hard and have been unlucky with one or two results so it was great for them to get a result like this” Atkins stressed.

Few would have predicted a badly out of form Matlock getting anything from the play off chasing Robins who stood in sixth spot and well set for claiming the final play-off spot before kick off.
It turned out to be a night to forget for the Tameside outfit who concede an own goal from the experienced Sean Newton after only six minutes, Nat Crofts then scoring on 28 minutes to give the Gladiators a two goals lead. Ashton went on all out attack in the second half but were undone by a resilient Matlock who were four goals to the good by the 63rd minute thanks to strikes from George Wilkinson and Harry Wood.
Bernardo Couto with a screamer in the 84th minute hit a consolation for Ashton but substitute Tavonga Kuleya completed the Gladiators; nap hand in stoppage time.

The bad news for the visitors was extended into Tuesday evening when play off rivals Worksop Town won 4-2 at Guiseley and are now firm favourites to claim the final play off place.
So what was so different in the space of six days for in their previous home outing Matlock were on the wrong end of a 4-0 beating by Gainsborough Trinity and potentially at least, Ashton looked far more dangerous opponents?
Atkins said the turnaround was down to the players who had listened to what he and Yates wanted following another defeat but with a much improved performance at Hyde on Saturday, Liam Hardy scoring Matlock’s consolation in a 2-1 verdict.
“We asked the lads to be a bit more energetic, their desire levels needed to go up. As you know I missed the Hyde game but watched the video of it and I thought we were a bit passive. On Monday we got the ball down and played around them, we won our tackles, applied pressure and got off to a really good start. We got the first goal and when you do that in this league you have a hell of a chance of winning. It’s vital to get off to a good start and be on the front foot, Full credit to the players, they were all brilliant.”
It was a performance and result that Matlock fans had not witnessed for months, only their fourth win of the calendar year.

“It was a full blown performance, everyone did their jobs properly, we defended really well putting our bodies on the line and we attacked really well, we missed two easy chances in the first half to add to the two goals we scored” Atkins added.
“The result ranks high in the wins we’ve had in my two spells at the club. It’s not the highest because we got a great result to knock Mansfield out of the FA Trophy and there were one or two other great results in my first spell but we can’t underestimate what a good result it was to hit five against a good side such as Ashton who are chasing the play-offs.”

He also paid tribute to the level of support and although 471 was the Gladiators’ lowest home league gate of the campaign, it was still a decent turnout on a wet Monday night with nothing at stake for the hosts.
That’s the big change for me coming back, to see the youngsters behind the goal really getting behind the team, they keep on singing and singing, even when results haven’t been going well, it’s great to see and we can’t praise and thank them enough.”

So attention now turns to the final game of the season and a visit from already relegated Bradford (Park Avenue) on Saturday. Matlock will be seeking a third league double for they were 3-2 winners in West Yorkshire last November, recovering from 2-0 down with ten men.
“We’ll be wanting the lads to do exactly the same as on Monday, showing the energy, the desire and to play good football” Atkins explained.
“We’ll be wanting the three points to end the season on a high note but I think Bradford have improved but couldn’t do quite enough to save themselves from relegation. They’re a better side than their position suggests so it’ll be a tough game but after Monday we’ll be raring to go on Saturday. There could be a couple of changes as we’ll want to look at a couple of lads we’ve not seen that much of and they might be tactical but the aim is to get the win.”

John Johnston came off with a tight hamstring on Monday having missed the Hyde defeat wile Ollie Clark collected a knock against Ashton but both are expected to be available for the weekend. A Matlock victory on Saturday plus a draw or defeat for FC United of Manchester at home to Lancaster City and a defeat for Bamber Bridge at Basford could see the Gladiators finish in 14 th position. Bamber have a three points advantage over Matlock and are three goals better off plus they have scored more than Matlock so it would need a four goals swing in Matlock’s favour.

The club’s Presentation Evening will be held in the Shorts Lounge after the match on Saturday. Admission is free with food and entertainment laid on while amongst other awards, fans will find out who is their player of the year for 2023/24.
“We’re hoping for a good attendance on Saturday and that people stay down to enjoy what should be a good night” said a Matlock spokesman.

Ian Richardson 24 April 2024