Return to winning ways is big boost

Craig Hopkins is hoping two wins in four days will give Matlock Town the confidence they need to aim for a third successive victory at Lancaster City on Saturday before beginning their defence of the Derbyshire Senior Cup, writes Ian Richardson.

A comfortable 2-0 home win against Halesowen Town in the league was followed by an exciting and deserved 3-2 Integro League Cup victory against Grantham Town. Before the midweek success, fellow joint boss Glenn Kirkwood had labelled the next ten days as “vitally important” for Matlock’s season, a point echoed by Hopkins on Wednesday.

He said: “We want to keep the momentum going, we’re not back at full speed yet but we’re working towards it. It was nice to return to winning ways against Halesowen when all we really wanted was a win and a clean sheet.

"We’ve played much better than that but wins can breed confidence and it was important that after the better display at Witton we got the three points. We were much better against Grantham, we passed it better and a little of that confidence looked to be coming back.

"We deserved the win and were doing really well until they made it 1-1. It knocked some of the stuffing out of us and Grantham had a strong spell but as the game went on we got stronger and got the two goals to win it. We want to do well in the League Cup.”

Hopkins also paid tribute to youngsters Jordan Pierrepont and Zak Brunt who both played the full ninety minutes against Grantham. For Brunt, who only turned 16 a fortnight ago, it was a full debut, while Pierrepont came in for current player of the year Phil Barnes.

“Both did very well," declared Hopkins. "Jordan handled the ball well and certainly showed no fear when he came up against their big defender Tom Batchelor and took him out cleanly. For Zak, it’s far different from what he’s used to but at sixteen he has quality and he showed it in his first taste of mens football. He’ll ache a bit and will be tired doing his double maths.”

Injuries seem to be a recurring theme for Matlock at present with several playing through the pain barrier. Kirkwood and Hopkins have added to their squad with forward Jamie Jackson, 31, returning to the fold for a second time after leaving the Gladiators just over 18 years ago. Jackson, once with Chesterfield is the half-brother of former Bolton and Southampton striker Kevin Davies who also was with Chesterfield. Since leaving Matlock, Jackson has been with a number of clubs including Buxton, Worksop Town, and Alfreton Town, his latest port of call being Spalding United this season.

Hopkins added: “Jamie adds something different to what we have. He’s local, keen as mustard, popular in the dressing room and really wanted to come here Injuries are a bit of a headache for us so we’ll be counting the bodies on Thursday ahead of Lancaster.”

The Dolly Blues were promoted as EVO-STIK League North champions at the end of last season and Hopkins knows Matlock will be in for a tough test at the Giant Axe.

He insisted: “We’ve had reports come through on them and it’s clear that at home they’re a very good side so we have a difficult game but we hope to be able to build on the last two or three results and we’ll go there with confidence. We need to keep on building and improving.”

Hopkins also had words of praise for the 342 fans who turned out at the DCJ Group Insurance Arena for the Halesowen game.

He added: “That was a good crowd when you consider how poor we were in the previous home match. It was a cold day, Christmas coming up, so it’s a big well done and thank you to all those who came down and backed us.”.

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