Defender Ryan Qualter has been one of the stand-out performers for Matlock Town in their impressive start to the 2020/21 campaign and has already become a popular figure at the Proctor Cars Stadium. With the Matlock squad having to take an enforced break due to a Coronavirus outbreak at the club, the powerful centre-half took some time to speak exclusively to Derbyshire Media Company about his thoughts on the team’s start to this season.

Qualter, who moved to the Gladiators this summer, has admitted that it has been a pain to have to stop playing for two weeks when the club has been on a good run:

“It’s been frustrating for the short period of time that we’ve had off. I think all of us at the club have been very grateful for how many games we’ve been able to play this season without having a hiccup along the way. We’re still in a good position. We’re really pleased with how we’ve started this season, so the break is not ideal but it’s only a short one. We’re confident we can carry on where we left off…we should be all raring to go come next week.”

Matlock Town started this season’s league campaign with a dour 1-0 defeat away at Bamber Bridge but feels like the team have already moved on significantly since that opening day defeat:

“We were obviously really disappointed with how we got on in the first league game…but I think it shows how much character we’ve got in the squad that we’ve managed to turn it around. We’ve started putting points on the board. We never doubted that we’d get the ball rolling after that opening day defeat. We’ve had some impressive results.”

Qualter also commented on the strength of the NPL Premier Division this year. Two of the heavyweights in this league have both experienced shaky starts to this season. South Shields are in eighth position in the table currently after already losing twice at the 1st Cloud Arena while FC United of Manchester are in a very disappointing 15th position after only picking up one win from their first six league games. The Gladiators have started the season well with only one league defeat so far and are currently one position below the play-off zone but with games in hand on the entire top five in the league:

“We all knew in pre-season that this was probably going to be the toughest this league has ever been. There’s some big clubs in this league…to be fair, I do feel for teams like South Shields and FC United of Manchester that normally do have big crowds week in, week out. We played South Shields away recently and only 300 could watch and that’s normally a very intimidating place to go. So you’ve got to feel for those clubs, especially from a financial point of view.”

The former Alfreton Town and Boston United player is delighted with the reception and support he’s received from the Gladiators fan base since joining the club but is also modest about his own start to the campaign and makes it clear that the entire defence and the man between the sticks deserves praise just as much as himself:

“It’s always nice to go to a club and get the fans on your side. It’s early doors obviously, but our defence has been outstanding so far…a lot of credit also has to go to Shaun Rowley. He’s in to fill Jon Stewart’s boots, which is a difficult task, but he’s performed outstandingly.”

At the end of our chat, I ask Ryan if he thinks a top five spot in the league is a realistic target for the end of the season and the defender makes it very clear that this is definitely the aim:

“Yeah, I think so. I think teams like South Shields, Buxton and maybe Basford United will be fighting around top spot. But we just want to quietly go about our business. That gets harder to do when you’re on a good run. We fully believe that we should be competing for those play-off spots if not a little bit more. That’s our aim…we’re fully confident we can do that.”

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