Matlock Town face a long trip up north to face Morpeth Town away from home in the Northern Premier League Premier Division on Saturday afternoon.
Despite an impressive 4-0 victory away from home at Rushall Olympic in the FA Trophy last weekend, the Gladiators will be anxious to secure all three points in their first league game since their bitterly disappointing performance at home against Whitby Town two weeks ago.
The pressure is increasing on Paul Phillips's men at the top of the league as local rivals Buxton now sit only one point behind them in second place with two games in hand.
Morpeth Town are currently hovering just above the relegation zone in 19th position in the NPL Premier Division. After an awful start to this season, manager Stephen Turnbull resigned from the club in September. After a successful interim spell, Craig Lynch was confirmed as the club's permanent new manager right at the beginning of November. Since the change of leadership, Morpeth's fortunes have certainly improved and the club also enjoyed a good run in the FA Cup this season. Matlock Town gaffer Paul Phillips stated in the build-up to this game that Morperth are in a "false position" in the table and should end the season comfortably higher in the league than where they are now.
In their most recent game, Morpeth comfortably beat Whitley Bay 4-0 at home in the first round of the Techflow Marine Senior Cup thanks to two goals from Andrew Johnson and goals from Ben Ramsey and Jack Foalle. In all competitions, Morpeth have only actually lost twice in their last 15 games.
The club was founded in 1909 and are affectionately known as The Highwaymen. Morpeth play their home games at Craik Park in the town of Morpeth in Northumberland. Craik Park is the furthest ground away from The Proctor Cars Stadium in terms of all the teams in the NPL Premier Division. Thankfully for Matlock, this away trip is taking place on a Saturday afternoon rather than a Tuesday evening!
The Highwaymen equalled their best ever run in the FA Cup this season when they reached the fourth and final qualifying round.
Morpeth won two trophies in the 2018-19 season. As well as clinching the NPL Division One East league title, the Highwaymen also lifted the Northumberland Senior Cup.
The Highwaymen also lifted silverware at Wembley Stadium when the club won the FA Vase in the 2015-16 campaign.
One to Watch
30 year-old midfielder Liam Noble will be a key player to look out for on Saturday afternoon.
Noble has played for the likes of Carlisle United, Notts County and Hartlepool United during his playing career.
The hard working box-to-box player was part of the Carlisle United team that won the Football League Trophy on the 2010-11 campaign and was also part of the Forest Green Rovers squad that won the National League play-offs in the 2016-17 season which secured them promotion to the Football League for the first time ever.
Noble joined the Highwaymen two years ago from Hartlepool United.
New signings Luke Hall, Luke Daly and Alfie Roberts are all available for selection and could make their debuts for the Gladiators.
Striker Ross Hannah is finally available for selection again following his second suspension of this season.
It's hoped that Callum Chippendale will be fit enough to play but Jamie Cooke will be out of action for up to two weeks after sustaining a knee injury.
First choice goalkeeper Shaun Rowley will be out of action for a while due to a broken hand.
These two sides last played each other on the third of March in the 2019/20 season shortly before it came to a halt due to the Covid pandemic.
The league game ended in a bad-tempered 1-1 draw at The Proctor Cars Stadium in front of a crowd of 249.
Marcus Marshall took the lead for Matlock before Ryan Hutchinson equalised for the Highwaymen.
The game is notable for Alex Byrne's debut for the Gladiators. Byrne was also awarded the man of the match after the game. The first of many!