What a difference a week has made for Matlock Town.
Had they not conceded a late equaliser at Sutton Coldfield Town on Tuesday week they would have hit the summit of the Evo-Stik League Premier.
They went into their August Bank Holiday programme in fourth but ended it down in sixteenth after a 2-0 defeat at Warrington Town last Saturday prior to a 3-2 home loss to Grantham Town on Monday.
Joint boss Craig Hopkins was not too despondent but acknowledged that a return to winning ways is vital this weekend when they travel to Shropshire to meet Haughmond from the Midland League Premier Division in the First Qualifying Round of the Emirates FA Cup.
“It’s still early days, we’re six games in and there’s still nothing in it,” said Hopkins. “We’ve had a really tough start and over the weekend played the two teams who are now in the top two. Up until Monday we’ve been pretty good, even at Warrington we were on top during the first half before being hit by those two quick goals before half time. At Sutton Coldfield, we were guilty of not putting the game to bed and also conceding two very poor goals in the first half. And if you look at the Warrington twitter feed, they wanted half time to come as quickly as possible at forty minutes in but then out of nowhere came two soft goals.”
Hopkins conceded that it was a below par display for the opening third of the contest against Grantham.
“For the first half hour nobody played well, everyone had a bad time of it but for the last 50 or 60 minutes we were the better side. The damage had been done but we feel we should still have got something from our second half chances. Everyone was very disappointed afterwards. The lads were told about it but didn’t need to be told. We take it as a group, players, staff, Glenn Kirkwood and me, Danny Cox, Adam Sollitt and Mark Mullins, we stand together as a group.”
Hopkins was complimentary about Grantham adding: “We played against a very good side, probably the hardest working side in the league. We did that in the first five games but Grantham outworked us, their decision making was good and their finishing spot on.”
So, attention turns to the FA Cup with the Gladiators striving to go one round further than last season’s final qualifying round exit at Altrincham.
“We’ve spoken to a couple of managers who’ve played them and they’ve said that a neutral could mistake them for a Step 3 side. The match reports we’ve had are detailed. In the last round they went to Bedworth United, an NPL South side, and beat them well on their artificial surface. Every game is important for us whether it be in the league or the cup. It’s another massive game for us and Saturday can’t come quickly enough for us for we want to get Monday’s game out of our system. We need full concentration on Saturday, all our attention now is on this game.”
Mansfield loan strikers Tyler Blake and Zeyn Hakeem have not got the Stags’ consent to play on Saturday but Hopkins says everyone else should be available, barring possibly midfielder Michael Williams, who is edging closer to a return to fitness.
There may be a new addition to the squad ahead of the tie which if drawn will mean a replay at the DCJ Group Arena on Tuesday night and the postponement of the scheduled league trip to Coalville Town.
Meanwhile, Hopkins thanked the fans who turned up in numbers to the Grantham game which attracted a healthy 529 attendance.
“Having a good crowd in made the performance and result all the more frustrating,” Hopkins admitted. “We’d made a good start and played really well in the two home games. Monday wasn’t us, we’re better than that, hopefully those coming down for the first time will give us another chance, we thank them for coming and next time they’ll see the real Matlock Town”.