Hopkins calls his Gladiators to arms

Matlock Town joint boss Craig Hopkins is calling on the Gladiators to stand and up be counted after their below par start to the EVO-STIK League campaign, writes Ian Richardson.

Hopkins spoke out on Wednesday with the Gladiators sitting in 18th spot after 16 outings ahead of a trip to Marine on Saturday following their eighth league defeat of the season last weekend at Stalybridge Celtic.

Pointing to the unpredictable nature of the EVO-STIK League Premier Division since the start of the 2017-18 season and singling out Celtic as the best side they'd faced this season despite their own struggles, Hopkins told supporters: "They were a really good side although it seems unbelievable they struggle so badly away from home. They were better than us although 4-1 flattered them somewhat.

"But they scored some great goals, the first one for example a great overhead kick from Liam Dickenson who probably won't hit another one like that for a very long time. They got in quality balls from wide areas, their wide players showing us what we should have been doing. Their left back must have put in five or six quality balls. Stalybridge moved the ball well, we didn't."

Hopkins admitted it has been a struggle for Matlock to replicate their outstanding form from this time last season. "We're not playing anywhere near as well as we did last season. At home our form has been mixed and away from home we've not been good enough and we need to turn things round."

The Gladiators boss pulled no punches on how he and joint manager Glenn Kirkwood are expecting their players to address their current plight, declaring: "We've got to roll our sleeves up, work harder and show greater desire. Last season no team was fitter than us but that's not the case at present. Our training on Tuesday centred largely around fitness and we'll have another good session on Thursday.

"Four or five of our lads are not to the level of last season. Players have to look after themselves, do more for themselves away from the club, they have to be more responsible for their actions. We won't rest if the team isn't right. We're working really hard to get the balance right. We'll make no apologies for bringing more lads in. The players we have here must force us to change our minds."

Marine, like Matlock, have also had an inconsistent start being one place and two points behind Town and having played a game more. Hopkins is expecting another tight encounter after the teams met at the DCJ Group Arena a month ago, Marine scoring the first and last goals in a 2-2 draw after the Gladiators dominated for long spells.

Hopkins added: "We're expecting the usual tough game up at Marine. We'll be going there to win but we'll have to go there and earn it."

Image courtesy of Twitter

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