Injuries and suspensions cause problems for Matlock

Matlock Town update, by Ian Richardson

Who will turn out for Matlock Town in their home Boxing Day derby with Buxton is anyone's guess and the chances are that manager Mark Atkins will not yet know the final make up of his side.

Injuries and suspensions have restricted Atkins' selection options in recent weeks and they will play an integral role as the Gladiators look for their first league win in seven matches.

Skipper James Lukic, defender Lee Featherstone, striker Tyeisse Nightingale and assistant manager and deputy goalkeeper Nick Buxton are all banned while the injury list currently stands at full backs Micky Harcourt, Oscar Radford and Kris Witcombe, forward Lee Morris and had the cold snap not intervened last Saturday when the home game with Rushall Olympic was called off, goalkeeper Jon Kennedy.

Matlock's first choice stopper, who has been in outstanding form in his first season with the Gladiators, was laid low with a bad bout of gastro-enteritis, and although Atkins expects him to be fit and well to face the Bucks, Buxton's two game ban has seen a return for Adam Sollitt, who retired during the summer due to increased work commitments.

"Saturday's match being called off was probably a blessing" said Atkins. "We only had eleven fit players and the bench would have been filled with under 19 players but we were ready to play. We'd got players to fill in, some out of position admittedly, but we'd have given as good as we got and I feel the team we'd have put out was good enough to have won the game."

The one downside from the Rushall fixture biting the dust was that Lukic's one match ban is carried over to the Buxton clash, one probably more than any other, that the Gladiators fans will want to win. Buxton have a recent good record at the Reynolds Stadium, having won twice and drawn once since a 3-0 defeat back in March 2008.

Atkins is surprised that the Bucks currently reside in the relegation slots but thinks their stay there will be only temporary. A vital 4-3 win at fellow strugglers Whitby last weekend was their first in the league for three months. Scott Maxfield has stepped up from player to team boss since previous manager John Reed and his assistant Clive Freeman left the Silverlands last month.

"You always get a tough game against Buxton, they've got some good players and their side's not changed all that much from the one which nearly made the play offs last season. They're in a false position near the bottom but they won't be down there for long. We'll respect them but really we've got to concentrate on ourselves. It's time we started winning games now and moving on and up that table."

The Town chief has his fingers crossed that some of his injury stricken squad may be back in action against the Bucks.

"With a bit of luck Oscar Radford should be back, he wasn't that far off last week. We're training twice this week and seeing just how much we can get from our injured players in the hope that they'll be strong enough for the Buxton game. Hopefully with the last game being off and no midweek match, the players have been able to rest which will do a lot of them some good. Hopefully the break will work in our favour."

Worksop's 1-0 home victory against title chasing Hednesford last weekend saw the Tigers leapfrog the Gladiators who now lie in tenth spot.

The derby should attract Matlock's highest crowd of the campaign and from a financial viewpoint, the expected milder weather will be welcomed by their officials as in the last three seasons, wintry conditions have prevailed to leave players and spectators alike kicking their heels.

Where next?

Difficult schedule ahead for Avenue Bradford Park Avenue update, by Lewis Sale

The Pitching In Northern Premier League newsletter

Keep up-to-date with our exclusive email newsletters.