Kirkwood still counting on success

Matlock Town's Glenn Kirkwood remains upbeat about the club's prospects over the rest of the season despite their inconsistent form and early exits from both the Emirates FA Cup and Buildbase FA Trophy, writes Ian Richardson.

The Gladiators have struggled to put together a run of results of any consequence after a four game unbeaten start to the 2017-18 campaign but Kirkwood and joint boss Craig Hopkins are backing their side to collect three points this weekend when they host Nantwich Town at the DCJ Group Insurance Arena.

Nantwich, like Matlock, have under-performed in the EVO-STIK League's top flight, surprisingly finding themselves in second bottom spot, eight points behind the 17th-placed Gladiators, but with four games in hand. They have benefited from a week and a half's break since their defeat at Ashton United though and Kirkwood is happy to admit it came at an opportune time.

Looking ahead to the weekend, he told fans: "It'll be nice to be back home again. If we'd have had a game last Saturday we'd have been down to the bare bones so the break has definitely helped us. Adam Yates and Ted Cribley have both trained on Tuesday and we're very hopeful that both Micky Harcourt and Shaun Harrad will be okay for the weekend.

"Shaun is due to have an MRI scan but his injury isn't as bad as we first feared which is great news for he's a very important player for us. He's played through the pain barrier during the past few weeks and he's been brilliant."

Young defender Max Hunt has also returned to the Gladiators following a three months loan spell at Belper which Kirkwood believes has been beneficial for both Hunt and Matlock. "He looks unbelievable and the three months he's had at Belper playing at a decent level has done him the world of good," added Kirkwood.

Matlock should have virtually a full strength squad available to face the Dabbers, including striker Tyrell Waite who missed the last game through family commitments. Midfielder Joe Doyle-Charles is suspended after collecting a fifth caution of the season at Ashton while Luis Rose remains sidelined through illness.

According to Kirkwood, their visitors will provide stern opposition despite their lowly position in the table after the form they showed in the cup.

He warned: "They're a good side despite losing a number of players to Altrincham, poor sides don't make it through to the FA Cup First Round. They've recruited well and we'll face a tough match against a side who I reckon will be top eight come the end of the season."

Kirkwood also believes the last few weeks have probably been the most challenging he's faced with Hopkins since they came back to Causeway Lane eighteen months ago.

"I don't think luck has been on our side in recent games but you just have to take it on the chin and get on with things," insisted the joint boss. "We deserved a replay at the very least at Glossop while at Ashton we played well for good periods but gifted them two goals and ended up chasing it. We need to put on a show like we did against Stafford the other week.

"We're usually stronger at home and we'll be doing all we can to put on another show. At times like this we need everyone pulling in the same direction, our crowd can be our twelfth man. We know it's a two way thing and that they'll respond if we entertain them but we really need everyone behind us, there's still twenty seven games to go.

"What's gone has gone, it is what it is but we'll battle through as always. Hoppo and me and the staff are all positive people, the glass is half full rather than half empty. We know we're not a million miles away, we'll just carry on working to get things right."

* Derbyshire Senior Cup holders Matlock probably face the most difficult tie they could have asked for in their defence of the trophy after being drawn away to National League North neighbours Alfreton Town in the third Round on Tuesday 5 December. Matlock beat Alfreton in a dramatic semi-final last season which went to a penalty shoot-out.

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