THE decision to drop Jason Matthews for Tuesday’s win over Dover Athletic and give Alan Walker-Harris a first start since last March was one of the hardest Phil Simkin has ever had to make.
The Magpies’ chief made the admission after seeing Walker-Harris keep a clean sheet on his return to first-team action following 10 months out with a broken leg.
Walker-Harris had played for the reserves towards the end of last year but with Matthews not in peak condition or top form Simkin decided to change keepers for the Dover clash.
And the way the game went, with Dover lacklustre in front of goal, it turned out to be the ideal reintroduction for the former number one.
Other than one second half save, Walker-Harris enjoyed a relatively trouble-free night at the Avenue as the Magpies ended their barren run with a priceless three points.
“I was very pleased for Alan in his first game back for nearly a year after breaking his leg,” said Simkin.
“He did what he had to do, we protected him very well and he made one very good save in the second half.
“He showed he is back to fitness and back to something like he was last year.
“I thought everything he did he did comfortably and his kicking was decent.”
On the decision to pick Walker-Harris, he added: “It was not an easy decision for me to make. It was very, very difficult.
“Maybe one of the most difficult I’ve ever made I think.
“People can say it was justified or it wasn’t but at the end of the day it’s my neck on the block and I have to make decisions I think are right.
“Jason’s got a slight pull anyway and it would have been silly to have pushed him into it and I thought that Alan deserved a chance.”
Someone else Simkin reserved special praise for was defender Charlie Clough, who he pushed forward to play alongside striker Ben Watson.
That also paid dividends as Clough helped set-up Ashley Nicholls’ winning goal and was named man of the match having worked tirelessly for the full 90 minutes.
“Charlie played in midfield for Bristol Rovers so it’s not new to him,” said Simkin. “Perhaps that far forward is but I thought he caused Dover a lot of problems.
“For our goal he ran from just in front of me to the far corner to get that cross in.
“I’m pleased for him because he didn’t play well in the Luton games and he knows he didn’t.
“Paul Buckle released him from Bristol Rovers and he found it hard to get back on track but he showed his quality against Dover and his willingness to work.”