Matlock Town begin their 2020/21 NPL Premier Division season on Saturday with a trip to Lancashire as they square off against Bamber Bridge.

Last Saturday, the Gladiators secured a spot in the FA Cup First Qualifying Round following a scrappy 1-0 victory at home against tenth-tier OJM Black Country. Finally, attention can now focus on the league campaign – a full six months after Matlock’s previous league game.

The Opposition

Bamber Bridge, known affectionately as ‘Brig’, play their home games at the Sir Tom Finney Stadium. The ground can hold up to 3,000 people with a seated capacity of 554 in normal circumstances. Unfortunately, with the start of this season taking place within the Covid-19 era, restrictions have to be in place and the maximum crowd for Saturday’s match is strictly limited to just 450 spectators.

In relative terms, the club were founded fairly recently. The Lancashire club dates back to 1974. The club’s biggest honour came in 1996 when Brig won the NPL Premier Division league title. Their most recent trophy victory arrived in 2005 when the side won the NPL President’s Cup.

Brig’s manager is former Everton, Blackpool and Fleetwood Town player Jamie Milligan. The 40 year old from Blackpool also made seven appearances for England U18’s during the early stages of his playing career. Bamber Bridge is Milligan’s first senior management role. He took over at the club in December 2019.

Bamber Bridge were in thirteenth position when the 2019/20 league campaign was officially cancelled.

The place called Bamber Bridge, where the team’s stadium is located in, is a village which lies three miles south-east of Preston in Lancashire.

One to Watch

A key player to look out for on Saturday is nineteen year-old Isaac Sinclair. The teenager joined the club only very recently from the National League North’s Curzon Ashton.

Sinclair is a midfielder and started his playing career at Blackpool.

Sinclair’s father is none other than former West Ham United, Queens Park Rangers and England midfielder Trevor Sinclair.

Team News

The Gladiators will be without their number one goalkeeper Jon Stewart due to injury. Stewart is likely to be on the side lines for six to ten weeks. Spencer Harris is unavailable as this will be the last game of his two match suspension.

Craig King has picked up an injury but, thankfully, it’s nowhere near as serious as his previous injury and he will be unavailable for around two weeks. Callum Chippendale’s injury which prevented him from making his debut last Saturday in the FA Cup will be assessed on Friday before a firm decision is made as to whether he can be a part of the squad.

On a positive note, Nathan Valentine took part in a training session earlier this week for the Gladiators and should be available for selection for the opening day of the league campaign.

The match should also provide a historic moment for one of Matlock Town’s most popular players in the club’s entire history. Defender Adam Yates is expected to start on Saturday and if so it will be his 500th competitive appearance for the Gladiators. Manager Paul Phillips has already commented earlier this week that Yates will be assigned the captaincy (stepping in as a one-off for this season in place of striker Liam Hughes) on Saturday to mark this excellent personal achievement.

Previous Meeting

Matlock Town did the double over Bamber Bridge in the null and voided 2019/20 campaign.

The last time they met was on December 21 last year. Matlock Town won the game 2-1 at the Sir Tom Finney Stadium thanks to goals from Marcus Marshall and Dan Bramall while Alistair Waddecarr scored Brig’s goal. The game was watched by a crowd of 326.

The two sides also played each other on the opening day of the league campaign for last season. The Gladiators won that encounter 1-0 thanks to a goal from Marcus Marshall. Marshall left Matlock in April this year to join fellow NPL Premier Division outfit Basford United.

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