Matlock Town host Morpeth Town on Saturday afternoon in a crucial Northern Premier League Premier Division encounter. With just one win in their last 11 games and only one goal scored in their last five home matches, the pressure is on the Gladiators to find some form in order to assure themselves of at least a play-off spot.
With just five games remaining, the Gladiators go into this match in third position in the table. The North Derbyshire outfit find themselves eight points behind league leaders Buxton and six points ahead of Whitby Town who sit just one position behind the play-off spots.
Despite a poor start to the 2021/22 campaign, Morpeth Town now find themselves in seventh position in the NPL Premier Division table and still have a game in hand on most other teams in the table. Morpeth have won four of their last five games overall but have lost four of their last five away games in all competitions. In their most recent game, Morpeth Town beat Ashton United 2-0 at home in the league thanks to goals from Andrew Johnson and Liam Henderson. In their most recent away trip, Morpeth lost to Lancaster City 1-0 in the league.
Morpeth Town were founded in 1909 and are nicknamed 'The Highwaymen'. They play their home games at Craik Park in the town of Morpeth in Northumberland. Their ground is the furthest away from The Proctor Cars Stadium out of all the teams competing this season in the NPL Premier Division.
The Highwaymen's manager is Craig Lynch. Lynch has done an outstanding job at Morpeth since taking over the reins at the club on a caretaker basis in September before taking on the role permanently a month later. Under his stewardship, Morpeth have risen from the relegation zone to becoming surprise play-off contenders. Lynch is one of the youngest managers in the sport at only 30 years of age and has a very bright future ahead of him.
It's not just in the league campaign that Lynch has impressed at Morpeth Town. The Highwaymen's best ever runs in the FA Cup and FA Trophy have happened this season. Morpeth reached the fourth and final qualifying round of the FA Cup for only the second time in their entire history this season while they also reached the Fifth Round of the FA Trophy for the first time ever. Morpeth were eventually defeated 3-2 in heartbreaking fashion by National League North outfit York City away from home.
The most recent trophy Morpeth Town lifted was back in the 2018-19 season when they clinched the Northern Premier League Division One East league title. The Highwaymen also won the Northumberland Senior Cup in the same season. The Northumberland outfit also won the FA Vase back in the 2015-16 campaign.
One to Watch
32 year-old striker Liam Henderson will be a key player to look out for on Saturday afternoon. Henderson is in superb form and has scored eight goals in Morpeth's last six games which includes a hat-trick in Morpeth's 5-1 victory at Radcliffe last month.
Henderson started his playing career at Watford and had loan spells at Hartlepool United, Colchester United and Rotherham United. He joined Morpeth Town in the summer of 2016.
Alex Wiles is unlikely to feature due to his ankle injury while Reece Webb-Foster is very unlikely to feature due to his injury. Callum Chippendale will need to be checked ahead of this game due to the shoulder injury that he picked up in Matlock's 0-0 draw against Radcliffe earlier this week.
Liam King and Osebi Abadaki are doubts while they also recover from their injuries which has forced them onto the sidelines recently.
Defender Adam Blakeley could potentially make his Gladiators debut.
New signings Benito Lowe and Darren McKnight will still be unavailable as they're not due to join up with the Matlock Town squad until the third of April as part of their dual registration agreement with New Mills.
These two sides last played each other earlier this season in November at Craik Park in the NPL Premier Division.
The game ended 0-0 in front of a crowd of 480.