Matlock Town have announced today that manager Steve Kittrick has left the club by mutual consent. Luke Potter, the club’s assistant manager, has also departed the club today.
The decision comes less than 24 hours after the Gladiators beat higher-tier local rivals Alfreton Town 3-1 at home in the Derbyshire Senior Cup quarter-final.
While a decision like this is somewhat rare after a victory (even rarer following a cup upset), the club have decided that the deteriorating league form is too alarming to risk it continuing any further under the same leadership.
It certainly feels like an extremely long time ago that the Gladiators started September at the top of the Northern Premier League after winning their first four games and remaining unbeaten for the first six. Fast forward to today and Matlock Town find themselves in 19th position in the league after picking up only twelve points in their last 18 league games.
Steve Kittrick pleaded for patience from the club after last Saturday’s painful 2-1 defeat at his old club Scarborough Athletic and insisted that the team would 'get it right'. Kittrick had also stated on numerous occasions that he felt that the club were unlucky to find themselves in the position that they’re in and that he was the man to turn things round.
Unfortunately for Kittrick, the Matlock Town board’s patience couldn’t last any longer and it was mutually decided today that the club would be better off looking for a new manager to resurrect their league form before it might be too late.
It’s been well documented that the Gladiators have been playing much better in cup games in comparison to their league matches and it certainly didn’t escape Kittrick’s notice either. When asked on Tuesday night what he thought about the team’s performance after their victory over Alfreton Town in the Derbyshire Senior Cup, Kittrick’s wry smile and long pause before answering told its own story.
Matlock have fared well in cup competitions this season. They reached the Second Round Proper of the FA Trophy before only losing out to National League opposition and are also still involved in the Derbyshire Senior Cup and the Integro League Cup. It became increasingly evident in his more recent post-match interviews that Kittrick was incredibly frustrated with how the club’s league performances never seemed to match what they could produce in the cups.
After the Alfreton match, Kittrick noted that his team would always seem to play better against better teams. This seemed to indicate that the players either struggled to find the same urgency for league games under Kittrick or the players fared much better when the pressure was off and the cup matches were seen almost as a welcome distraction to their dismal league form and this relaxed the atmosphere amongst them.
Whenever asked directly about this, Kittrick seemed baffled and at a loss as to why the club kept struggling with this issue. Sadly for him, time has run out for him to find the solution.
Matlock Town’s chairman, Tom Wright, has indicated that an appointment to replace Kittrick is likely to be announced before Saturday’s crucial league trip to Mickleover Sports.
This appears to suggest that a new manager has been identified and agreed on before confirming the decision to relieve Kittrick of his duties. Whoever does come in to take over certainly has a big job on their hands.
Their first two matches in charge will be a Derbyshire derby and a ‘six-pointer’ away trip to Grantham Town. A negative start to the helm with these two games will likely see Matlock Town drop into the relegation zone so the pressure is on right from the very start for whoever the replacement is.
It’s fair to say that the majority of Matlock Town fans were often left frustrated with Kittrick’s tactics which were accused of being too direct and over-reliant on resorting to long balls. It also appears that the majority of fans approve of the decision made today and wish to see a manager come in with a far more attacking and positive approach.
There’s no doubt that the squad Kittrick has assembled has plenty of talent in there. The big questions now are how strong mentally is this squad when the pressure is really on and how will they react to a brand new manager’s approach. Either way, Matlock fans need to get firmly behind whoever replaces Kittrick as this changeover is happening at an absolutely crucial stage of this season.
The Gladiators have had numerous managers within the past decade. Here’s hoping that the new manager can start off well and a period of stability returns to this proud club.