NATHAN CLARKE has got the better of David Mirfin and Richard Keogh in Town’s last two games.
Now the long-serving centre-back is aiming to complete a hat trick of triumphs over former teammates when Lee Clark’s team head for Walsall tomorrow.
Dwayne Mattis, who came through Town’s academy, made 79 first-team appearances and won Republic of Ireland Under 21 honours before leaving for Bury in 2004 is the opponent in question.
The Huddersfield-born 27-year-old, who has also played for Barnsley, is now a key man in midfield for Saddlers manager Chris Hutchings, the former Town player who still lives in the Holme Valley.
With Town ninth in League I and Walsall 11th, neither side can make the play-offs, but Clarke is adamant there is plenty to play for in the West Midlands, where Town chase a fourth successive away win and third victory on the trot after defeating Mirfin’s Scunthorpe 2-1 seven days ago and Keogh’s Carlisle 1-0 on Monday.
“We’ve picked up nicely after an indifferent spell, and we’re all aware of what a shame it is that we were unable to find this kind of form a month earlier,” said the 25-year-old stand-in skipper.
“The last two matches have shown that we’re able to adapt to different circumstances, because we beat Scunthorpe with plenty of passing and movement and then had to grind out the win against Carlisle, a match which was a bit more of a scrap.
“At half-time the manager told us to make sure we won however we had to do it and even if it was a case of bundling the ball into the net. In the event, we won with a great header by Andy Booth, but it was a bit of a scrap to get the three points, and there are times when you have to be ready to do that.
“We might not be able to get into the play-offs this season, but we’re already looking towards the next one, and we’re learning a lot about each other.
“There’s no way we’ll let this season just peter out. We all have things to prove and we’re all ready to dig in and keep our run going.”
Clarke would also like to ad to his three-goal tally for the campaign, having hit the bar against Carlisle.
“I thought it was going in,” he said of his early second-half effort.
“Their keeper was beaten, but then the ball came back off the bar. There was a bit of a scramble, and Richard (Keogh) almost put it into his own net before Mikey Collins headed just wide.
“Soon after Gary Roberts curled a great shot against the inside of the right-hand post, and rather than going in the ball bounced back into play, and when things like that happen, you do worry that it isn’t going to be your day.
“You just have to keep going, and we did that and managed to force the win.”
While Town were beating the relegation- threatened Cumbrians, Walsall were winning 2-1 at Stockport with a stoppage-time own goal by County keeper Conrad Logan.
Centre-back Anthony Gerrard, cousin of Liverpool star Stevie, had earlier smashed in a free-kick for the Saddlers, who bounced back after defeats by play-off chasing pair Millwall and Tranmere.
Former Everton trainee Gerrard, 22, has been one of the season’s stand-out performers for Walsall, who were under the managership of Jimmy Mullen when they lost 2-1 at the Galpharm in December.
Hutchings, who had a spell as a player at Walsall, took over as manager in January, inheriting a squad including the likes of former Coventry midfielder Stephen Hughes, one-time Welsh international right-back Rhys Weston and ex-Premier League and England striker Michael Ricketts, who is back where his career began after also turning out for Bolton, Middlesbrough, Leeds, Southend, Preston and Oldham.
The Bescot Stadium roster also includes highly-rated youngsters like defenders Manny Smith, midfielders Mark Bradley and Alex Nicholls and striker Troy Deeney.
Tomorrow’s referee will be experienced Rutland official Trevor Kettle. It will be his 32nd game of the season.