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|BOWLING JOINS GLADIATORS BACKROOM STAFF
At last there was some good news for UniBond League Premier Division club Matlock Town fans with a victory - their first in six league matches - at Eastwood Town on Tuesday.
But it is hard to disguise any disappointment about the result and the performance up at Harrogate Railway Athletic in last Saturday's FA Cup Third Qualifying Round tie, as the Gladiators' interest in the competition ended with a 3-2 defeat.
So for the third successive season, Matlock went out at the stage before the big boys from the Blue Square Premier come in.
"I've never been so disappointed with a result for a very long while," said Town joint boss Gareth Williams. "I was convinced we were going to make the First Round Proper this time for we have the players capable of getting us there. But on Saturday everything went wrong and we certainly didn't do ourselves justice."
Fellow boss Phil Brown reckoned that Matlock should have capitalised on a good start. "For the first 15 or 20 minutes we looked to be in total control but we took our foot off the gas. They scored and we gave them the belief to go on and get stronger.
“But we believe that they were fortunate with the second goal as it was never a free kick and Neil Ashley was punched on the floor and the referee didn't see it. To add insult to injury they scored although it was a great strike to be fair. Dene Cropper was sent-off and we brought on Laurence Hall for we were chasing the game and so we became exposed at the back. They scored and then so did we to bring it back to 3-2 and then Matty Caudwell hit the post and then could and should have had a penalty. But overall we weren't at our best and we got punished for it."
So having beaten AFC United Telford convincingly in the previous round, Matlock found themselves beaten by a club below them in the Pyramid and a positive response was needed on Tuesday.
"We got it," Brown said. "We went two-up and then conceded just before and after half time which could have hurt us but we showed good character and great team spirit to go on and win and apart from the Telford performance, I'd rate that as one of our best performances."
Brown and Williams made some changes at Eastwood and their moves bore fruit. Laurence Hall was brought in to replace Cropper who had a head injury and he earned praise from Williams but with a note of caution.
The former Stoke City striker, who can also fill in as a central defender, celebrated his inclusion by heading his first Matlock goal, while winger Matty Caudwell at last wore his favoured number eleven shirt and also inked his name on the scoresheet for the first time in Matlock colours.
"Laurence has been chomping at the bit to get a full game and it was a matter of time. He's taken his chance well with some good runs, strength and a great work rate, weighing in with a well taken goal. Now he's got to push it up that little bit more and not rest on his laurels.
“He's a young lad and if he can find some consistency, he'll be a great lad for us. As for Matty we couldn't wait to play him as an out and out wide man and he's not totally fit yet. He put in some top quality crosses along with Paul Riley which gives us two left footed players on the left."
So Matlock now head south to Stamford on Saturday, not only eager to progress in the FA Trophy to make up for the unexpected FA Cup defeat, but to avenge a 2-1 league defeat at the Vic Cousens Stadium on August Bank Holiday Monday.
"We owe them one for our poor performance in the league game," said Williams, "but we go there expecting a tough game as they've improved in recent weeks. Hopefully we can keep things tight at the back and reproduce some of the attacking play we saw at Eastwood."
There are no new injury problems, although Steve Taylor's back is still a cause for concern, so the Gladiators line-up is expected to be similar to the one which won at Eastwood and saw Town jump four places back up the table to sixth, overtaking both Eastwood and Buxton, the Bucks having sneaked just ahead of Matlock after their 3-1 win at Hednesford Town on Monday.
If a replay against Stamford is required it will be at the Geoquip Stadium on Tuesday, which will be bad news for both skipper James Lukic and striker Simon Barraclough who will need to pull out of the FA squad to take on Sheffield FC at the Bright Finance Stadium in Sheffield as part of the world's oldest club's 150 years celebrations.
Meanwhile, Ian Bowling (pictured) has been added to the Gladiators` backroom staff, coming in as goalkeeping coach and combining this role with scouting duties.
Bowling has vast non-League experience keeping goal for Kettering Town after serving Lincoln City, before moving to Worksop Town.
He had a hugely successful loan spell with Matlock in the 2004/05 season, playing a leading role in their run to the UniBond League Challenge Cup Final and has since managed Worksop before being sacked at the end of last season.
"Bows has a lot of non-League experience. He knows the game and we're delighted to have him with us. His skill and knowledge will be handy not only in the goalkeeping department but in other areas as well and he'll be out scouting for players and watching other clubs for us," said Brown – a former team-mate at Kettering.
Bowling himself is pleased to return to Matlock. "I'm delighted to be here and to be involved. I really enjoyed my last spell with the club, they're well run with two good young managers and an enthusiastic and great set of fans."
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