As goalkeeper Jordan Pierrepont became the latest player from Evo-Stik League Premier club Matlock Town`s academy to have trials with a Football League club, joint boss Craig Hopkins praised the work being done at youth level and reiterated that the academy students will be given every chance to prove their worth.
Pierrepont is spending time at Sheffield Wednesday following the similar footsteps of midfielder Zak Brunt, who has been at Leicester City and central defender Max Hunt, who had trials with both West Bromwich Albion and Derby County before the Rams snapped him up, putting Hunt in their under-23 squad.
Hunt, incidentally, made an impressive debut, despite the 4-0 home defeat last Friday by a talented Manchester City.
As the monsoon conditions led to last weekend’s home clash with Stourbridge being postponed, Matlock trained hard and were put through their paces with the same intensity on Tuesday as they prepared for this weekend’s visit from play-off chasing Farsley Celtic.
“The academy staff are doing a great job. We had eight or nine of the young lads training with us last Saturday, we’re taking a good look at them as we know they have potential and we’ll continue to watch their progress closely,” said Hopkins. “Age is not a barrier for them, if they’re good enough then they’ll play.
“There’s not many Step 3 clubs like ourselves that have that many young lads training with the first-team, they’ll be given every chance to progress. Some people think we’re overlooking them and that’s not the case but at the same time people need to recognise that there’s a massive gulf between step seven and step three. Take Merthyr Town who play at our level but in the Southern League. Circumstances meant they had to put out largely a development side in their game at Chesham United in November. They were 9-0 down at half-time and eventually lost 13-1. We have some exciting talent here at Matlock but we need to be careful how we utilise that talent both for the players` benefit and the good of the club. We’re all really pleased for Jordan and hope he’ll end up playing at a high level.”
The bad weather was once again a cause for frustration for the Gladiators in what has been a stop start season. The DCJ Group Arena pitch resembled a paddy field after the excessive rainfall late last week on top of the snow which fell the previous week. The postponement with huge puddles on the pitch was a mere formality.
“We desperately wanted to play, particularly on the back of that great performance and result at Nantwich Town,” explained Hopkins. “It’s been a stop start season and we really wanted to have the chance to gain some momentum and crack on. We’ve now trained hard on Thursday, Saturday and Tuesday to try and keep things ticking over, the lads are bursting to play.”
Hopkins reflected more on the Nantwich victory and looked ahead to Farsley’s visit.
“We had a strong side out at Nantwich and I think we had a strong spine which hasn’t been the case that often this season. We managed to get Adam Yates back at centre half after his nose injury alongside Dwayne Wiley while we’ve not had Joe Doyle-Charles in alongside Michael Williams in the centre of our midfield all that often, We were really happy with the two front lads, Shaun Harrad and Ricky German and we had a good twenty-year-old goalkeeper in from a League club with Phil Barnes still being out. We’ve now got Farsley and while we won up there a few weeks ago and did very well, we know they’re a good side so it’s important we maintain the level of performance and high tempo to our game that we had at Nantwich. As we said last week we want to put on a good performance in front of our own fans, we’ve had good crowds this season and we haven’t given them enough to get excited about so far.”
The Gladiators should have a full squad to choose from with the exception of Barnes.
“He could be another couple of weeks yet for it’s taking its time to heal. So we need to be patient with this one and make sure Phil’s fully recovered before thinking about his return,” Hopkins added.
With the transfer deadline imminent for this season, Hopkins said the Gladiators have put seven-day approaches in for two players.
“We’re looking to add to the squad before the deadline as we also look towards next season”.