“UNDERDOGS” Matlock Town might be on the cusp of a battle for promotion - but nothing will distract them from today’s FA Trophy tie with York City.

At the midway point of their Northern Premier League premier division season, Matlock are looking likely contenders for a play-off spot at the end of term, if not the title itself.

The Derbyshire outfit sit second in the division, two points behind - albeit one game ahead of - leaders Buxton.

Promotion from Step 3 to National League North will be their priority, and they face a crunch clash in the league after Christmas when they welcome Buxton to their Causeway Lane ground.

But before that comes today’s (3pm) home tie with York in the FA Trophy third round.

And boss Paul Phillips has insisted that his side are ready and raring to go against National League North outfit York, who he believes arrive today as favourites.

Added incentive for Phillips’ men is the chance to progress in a cup competition, having crashed out of the FA Cup at the first round qualifying stage by losing 3-0 at home to NPL midlands division outfit Belper Town.

“We want to win the game on Saturday,” Phillips told Matlock’s website.

“We want to win both the York and the Buxton games but for the moment it’s the York game we’ll be concentrating on and we’ll start thinking about Buxton next week.

“We let the club down massively against Belper in the FA Cup and we wanted a good run in the Trophy to make up for that performance the best we could.

“York will start as favourites - they’re a big club, especially at this level, and we’re quite happy to be labelled as underdogs.

“But make no mistake, the lads are up for it and want to go further in the competition.”

Matlock’s record in the league this season has been impressive, picking up 43 points from 21 games. Though they have lost five more than the Bucks, they have kept their points-gathering momentum going by winning where the table-toppers have drawn. Matlock have endured just one league stalemate this year - a goalless affair at 15th-placed Morpeth Town.

Both home and away, the Gladiators have otherwise recorded seven wins and three defeats, and failed to score in just four league games, with a 9-0 battering of Witton Albion their best result of the season.

Star striker Liam Hughes scored a hat-trick that day, but he will be absent for the Trophy game as he serves the second game of a two-match suspension for receiving a red card at the end of the 3-2 home defeat to Stafford Rangers a fortnight ago.

Phillips could have a problem between the sticks, with one keeper Dan Wallis, who has recently rejoined Matlock from Stamford, cup-tied, another in Paul Cooper carrying a slight injury, and on-loan shot-stopper Alfie Roberts returning to parent club Derby County.

The manager is hopeful midfielder Luke Daly could recover from a chest infection in time, and he has also brought in the versatile Nathan Okome on loan from Chorley.

He will boost Matlock's promotion bid during a time when the side is struggling with injuries.

"It’s important we keep the numbers up in the squad," Phillips commented. "Add to that he’s a very good player who we feel can fit into the way we want to work, we’re delighted to have Nathan on board.”