Hopkins sees silver lining in cup exit

Matlock may have surrendered their hold on the Derbyshire Senior Cup at Alfreton on Tuesday night but the performance after last weekend's victory at Lancaster in the EVO-STIK League suggests they are finally finding their feet, writes Ian Richardson.

That is a view of an upbeat joint Gladiators boss Craig Hopkins as the club prepared for the arrival of Rushall Olympic in the EVO-STIK League’s top flight on Saturday. And although he admits to being disappointed that Matlock fell at the first hurdle in their defence of the county trophy, Hopkins told fans that he and joint manager Glenn Kirkwood both believed the performance deserved more.

Hopkins said: “I think it’s fair to say the better side lost, neutrals I spoke to said we were the better team. Really we might have had a hatful of goals but we missed our chances. Our general play though over the ninety minutes was very good so there are a lot of positives to take from the game despite losing.

"How we’ve not scored I’ll never know, but sometimes you get games like that and you have the feeling that those chances are going to bite you on the backside which happened.”

Four days earlier, the Gladiators had shattered Lancaster City’s unbeaten record at the Giant Axe when a goal in each half from Jake Green and Ricky German put the visitors in a commanding position before a late rally from the Dolly Blues brought about a Tom Kilifin consolation ten minutes from time.

“Everyone from one to eleven put a shift in and played really well” Hopkins added. “Alongside the win at Workington, who have still only lost once at home, this was our best performance on the road this season. We know what we can do, our hard work brought its just rewards. We’d played well in the previous three games and wanted to carry it on and we did just that. We scored two great goals, it’s been a while since Jake scored with a header and Ricky’s goal was really well worked with a very composed finish.”

Hopkins says he won’t be answering his telephone on a Friday in future after a hat-trick of cry-offs prior to their trip up the M6. Adam Yates was ill but had recovered sufficiently to feature at Alfreton but winger Ted Cribley looks like being out for six weeks with a shoulder injury and on loan striker Noel Burdett has been released.

He explained: “Noel went into Scunthorpe and told them he wanted them to cancel his contract because he wants a break from the game, so that makes his loan arrangement with us null and void. Losing Ted is a real blow, he’s a big player for us and a lot of our chances come through him. Then to hear Yatesy was unfit put the tin hat on it, so it was nice to go up there and bag the three points.”

German will be added to the squad for Rushall Olympic after being unavailable for the Senior Cup tie as parent club Chesterfield stipulated he could not play for Matlock in the competition. Micky Harcourt will also be added to the squad after being unavailable through work in midweek.

“We’re a little low on numbers, we had a very young bench at Alfreton” Hopkins admitted. “It’s difficult to bring lads in at this time of year, but the lads playing at present have done very well. We’re always looking to improve our squad and if the right person became available then obviously we’d be interested, but at present there’s nothing in the offing at present as regards new players.”

Jamie Jackson, signed from Spalding United for a third spell at Matlock replaced German at Alfreton and along with young defender Max Hunt, who came in for Yates at Lancaster, were praised by Hopkins.

Hopkins added: “We thought Jamie had a really good game, it’ll take a few weeks for him to adjust back to this division after playing in the league below but I’m sure he’ll do well for us. Max was excellent to say it was his debut for us at Lancaster after being at West Bromwich Albion, he coped ever so well with what’s been asked of him in both games.”

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