Twenty-four hours after being confirmed as Matlock Town’s new manager after a successful caretaker period in charge, Dave Hoole was minutes away from celebrating his first game in charge with a victory against Shaw Lane AFC last Saturday.
But the Yorkshiremen, needing nothing less than a win to have any chance of reaching the play-offs, scored two late goals, the second one controversially in the 8th minute of stoppage time to spoil what looked like being a good first game in charge for Hoole and Shaun Harrad, who was appointed as assistant-manager.
Wins for Farsley Celtic and Grantham Town dashed the Ducks’ hopes of extending their season.
Kieran Wallace had put the Gladiators into a deserved lead midway through the second period and Hoole says there was much in the performance to encourage him also with the 2018/19 campaign in mind.
“We dominated for long periods, they were strong but very direct and I thought we coped quite well with that,” said Hoole. “But we still played our game, passing the ball very well on a very bad pitch.
“We created some good chances and then got our goal. We knew they’d throw the kitchen sink at us then for they simply had to, they needed the three points and were hoping results would go for them elsewhere. Unfortunately, we just faltered at the end, there were some tired legs out there and to be fair they scored with two decent headers. The result was disappointing, but I was delighted with our performance.”
Hoole was less happy with the officials with an astonishing 9 minutes being added at the end.
“I was disappointed with the referee who indicated 6 minutes of added time but ended up playing 9, why I just don’t know. I was none too pleased but you’d hope things even themselves out over a season but there was no chance of that with it being the last game of the season. But that’s football, we’ll regroup now, and we’ll look back on the game having seen a lot more positives than negatives. We outplayed them, and the lads have been excellent in turning things around showing they can compete with some of the best in the division, so things look bright going forward.”
One of the positives was a full league debut for 16-year-old Zak Brunt, who came into the Gladiators midfield for fellow academy player Harry Wood who was on the bench.
“He’s probably the most comfortable 16-year-old on the ball I’ve ever seen! Nothing fazed him and he did very well. Harry Wood’s done well when brought into the starting eleven towards the end of the season and they’re not a million miles away from becoming regular contenders and we want to keep them involved,” Hoole added.
One minor criticism from Saturday was the Gladiators’ game management in the dying embers.
“We took a quick free-kick, the move broke down and Shaw Lane broke quickly to win the corner from which the winning goal came. Perhaps we could have slowed things down a bit there, but we looked dangerous every time we attacked and probably thought they could win it, so we can’t fault them too much.”
Matlock eventually finished fifteenth with sixty points, a total which looked unlikely when Hoole took temporary charge at the end of March.
Now attention quickly turns to next season with a number of new signings expected as loan signings return to their parent clubs.
“Some of the lads may be released so we’re obviously talking to them in case that happens,” said Hoole. “Hopefully that would put us in the driving seat but we’re also looking at other players and we have three in mind that we want to speak to already and we’ve not scratched the surface yet with the professional clubs. So, I think we’ve already made some progress going forward.”
Hoole was full of praise for the Matlock fans who on Saturday made up at least half of the 219 attendance at Shaw Lane.
“The fans have been absolutely brilliant since I became involved, their support and backing has been first class. I hope they’ve liked the football we’ve been playing and will come back in increased numbers next season.”
Midfielder Joe Doyle-Charles has been put in the contingency squad for the England C side who play an Ireland international amateur eleven in Dublin on Sunday, May 27th.
Doyle-Charles received a similar call up twelve months ago along with former Gladiator Niall McManus, who had to turn the opportunity down due to university exams.