Matlock Town are finally back in action on Monday evening as they host their sister club Wirksworth Ivanhoe, in the club’s first football match of any kind since December.

The match will be no ordinary pre-season friendly though for a host of reasons. The winners of the match will lift the Wirksworth Centenary Cup as this is a game specially arranged to celebrate Ivanhoe’s 100th year in this current guise. Additionally, this will be Adam Yates’s final ever match as a player, as he gets the opportunity to bid a proper farewell in front of Gladiators fans who in turn, get to see Matlock properly in action for the first time in several months.

The Opposition

Wirksworth Ivanhoe have actually been able to finish their 2020-21 campaign recently following the easing of coronavirus restrictions within the past couple of months. In a shortened campaign for obvious reasons, Ivanhoe returned to their league campaign with a bang and ended up recently winning the Central Midlands Football League Division One Central title. This league title has secured promotion to the Central Midlands Football League North division, which is the seventh tier of non-league football (four tiers below Matlock Town). Ivanhoe’s promotion to this tier means that this will be the highest level of football that the club has played in its entire history.

The club have come under different guises before they ended up becoming Wirksworth Ivanhoe in 1921 and have retained that name thereafter. As referenced before, this special pre-season friendly was arranged to mark Ivanhoe’s 100th year under this name and the winners of the match will lift a trophy known as the Wirksworth Centenary Cup. Since around the time of the start of the pandemic, Wirksworth and Matlock Town have forged very close links, to the point where Wirksworth now act as like a feeder/sister club to the Gladiators. Due to the special relationship between the two, it was a no-brainer for Matlock Town to be selected as Ivanhoe’s opponents to mark their 100th year as a club. In future, the two clubs will now always play each other for this trophy as part of every pre-season campaign going forward.

The club are often referred to as ‘The Green Army’, as their home strip is traditionally green. Geographically, Wirksworth is a small town situated right in the very centre of the county of Derbyshire and just under 6,000 people live there.

One to Watch

Wirksworth might be a few tiers below the Gladiators but that doesn’t mean that their squad can be underestimated. A key player to look out for will be Ivanhoe striker Tom Mellor. The 24 year-old forward joined Wirksworth from Youlgreave last season with the promise that Ivanhoe would win the league. Mellor backed up his claim by scoring an outstanding 19 goals in 18 games to help The Green Army clinch the title and promotion. Mellor’s excellent form since joining resulted in him finishing as the club’s top goal scorer for last season.

Team News

While all the attention will be rightly on Adam Yates for this game, there’s also plenty of other areas of Matlock’s team which will be of large interest to the fan base.

Most notably, this should be the first glimpse of all of Matlock’s new signings over the summer. Additions such as Jonathan Wafula, Alex Wiles and John Pritchard should all feature. Perhaps the most intriguing first glimpse will be that of Jesurun Uchegbulam, an exciting new signing from Mossley that assistant manager Dave Wild knows very well. Jesurun’s willingness to run at opponents down the wing could well be a big crowd-pleaser.

Previous Meeting

The last time these two sides met was on August 21 last year for a pre-season friendly at the Proctor Cars Stadium.

The Gladiators ran riot with a convincing 8-1 victory. Unfortunately, there were no spectators allowed for the game due to the Covid-19 restrictions that were in place at that time.

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