Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Premier Division club Matlock Town had to wait patiently until Wednesday night to play their opening pre-season game after days of frustration which saw them kicking their heels last Saturday.
The Gladiators were scheduled to visit Shirebrook Town last weekend, but the Toolstation Northern Counties East League Division One side cancelled the game on Wednesday morning because their two managers were still on holiday.
With their preparations thrown into chaos, joint bosses Craig Hopkins and Glenn Kirkwood along with club officials worked frantically to arrange a replacement fixture and it all looked to have slotted nicely into place when as late as Friday evening, Matlock confirmed a match versus AFC Mansfield at Real United’s ground at Stoke Bardolph.
But then the monsoon type weather of Saturday morning led to a second, but understandable cancellation with standing water on the pitch at 9.30am and three more hours of heavy rain expected.
But their opening fixture was a tasty one as they took on Mansfield Town at Rossington Main (there being a cricket game at Matlock) in a hastily arranged game announced on Tuesday morning.
“We were desperate for a game, especially after the problems we had last Saturday,” said Hopkins. “Mansfield said they would be fielding more or less their first-team as their players need more game time so it’s a really tough first match for us.”
Reflecting on being unable to play last weekend, Hopkins diplomatically said: ”Shirebrook calling the game off when they did wasn’t fantastic,” before adding, “then to see the AFC Mansfield game off on Saturday was really frustrating and a real blow after a lot of hard work by so many people. We had the lads in for training again on Monday night and worked them hard. We couldn’t fault the decision to call last Saturday’s game off though.”
Hopkins was speaking ahead of the game against the Stags, and the home friendlies with Nuneaton Town on Friday and Chesterfield this coming Tuesday which will complete a hat-trick of difficult tests for his side. The Gladiators and the Spireites will be competing to lift the Autoworld Stoneacre Cup.
“The Mansfield game will hopefully see many lads get 45 to 60 minutes, they need to get used to playing the game again. Nuneaton will also be hard, they’re full-time and a very good National League North side who we believe will be in the top five this season.
“Everyone’s looking forward to playing Chesterfield particularly as a good number of our players live in the Chesterfield area. Both Glenn and me used to be season ticket holders at Chesterfield, our families support them as we still do. Again it’ll be tough but you tend to learn a lot more from the harder games. Results aren’t the most important at the moment but being right for when the league season gets under way so we need to start straightaway doing the right things, the lads need to be doing what we ask of them.”