STAFFORD RANGERS 1-3 MATLOCK TOWN
The ever improving Lavelle White was the catalyst behind Matlock’s third successive league win which saw them rise to fourth spot in the table.
White scored twice and was unlucky not to grab a hat-trick, his pace being a constant thorn in Stafford’s side as he looks far better than the youngster who struggled to make an impression last season.
But Matlock did not have it their own way against the second bottom side early on and they received a nasty early shock as JERMAINE JOHNSON scored with a firm drive from the edge of the box with just thirteen seconds on the clock. The Gladiators had clearly not switched on and it gave Rangers the impetus to play some good football in the early stages. At that point they belied their lowly position and on 5 minutes Sam Bell flicked wide from a corner as they looked to add to their advantage.
Then came another blow for Matlock as Lee Featherstone, recalled in place of the suspended Joe Leesley in the one change to the starting line up from the win at bottom club Droylsden seven days earlier, was helped off injured with Oscar Radford coming on.
Stafford looked far from comfortable in defence and Matlock might easily have been level on 12 minutes when Danny Holland, who had an excellent all round game, lifted a shot over the advancing Jon Brain, but the ball bounced steeply to hit the underside of the bar and Brain was alert to bravely block the follow up from White.
There was then a half chance for Darryl Thomas who skipped around Brain but ran out of ground with his angle becoming increasingly tighter.
Kennedy kept out a strike from Danny Quinn on 19 minutes after a fine interchange of passes had created the opportunity and it turned out to be a significant save for Matlock were back on level terms three minutes later.
Martin Foster tried to squeeze a way through down the centre and was upended by Lucan Spittle just inside the penalty box. Referee Gary Hilton pointed to the spot and after the protests, particularly from Spittle had died down, THOMAS scored from one of his trademark spot kicks, which had too much power for Brain who guessed the right way and got a slight touch on the speeding ball.
Stafford lost full back Michael Carr, stretchered off after he had fouled White who was starting to enjoy much joy against the Rangers defenders. Captain Liam Needham smacked a well struck half volley into Brain’s chest as Town looked to gain the upper hand, but Matlock had to be wary at the other end as home skipper Darren Bullock planted a free header yards wide from a corner and Kennedy saved from Johnson to keep the scoreline at 1-1 after an even first half.
But that was just about as good as it got for Stafford as a businesslike approach from Matlock paid dividends after the interval. The weather may have been lousy but Matlock’s performance certainly wasn’t as they completely dominated the second half.
Having conceded within seconds of the start of the opening half, Matlock nearly scored themselves at a similar point in the second as White whipped in a teasing cross that Spittle sliced inches past the post for the first of three quick Matlock corners.
Then James Ashmore drove at Brain before Stafford relieved the pressure, breaking for Joe Guest to see his off target shot deflect wide.
But then WHITE took over.
On 56 minutes he chased a long ball forward which totally bemused a square looking Stafford defence, clipped the ball over Brain and then showed great persistence to push the ball home for a fine individual goal.
Stafford had barely recovered when the 58th minute brought his second goal, as he cut in from the left to leave Brain helpless with a tremendous twenty yarder.
He so nearly completed a quick fire hat-trick as Holland intelligently laid the ball off for him only for his well struck shot to flash inches wide.
It was all Matlock now as Thomas drove agonizingly wide and then substitute Corey Gregory had a goal ruled out, chipping home with aplomb but the offside flag was raised.
Stafford made a late bid to salvage something from the havoc White had caused them and Kennedy did well to turn aside a fierce strike from Bell with Spittle heading harmlessly wide from the resulting corner.
But the match ended predictably with Matlock on the attack and in control. More fine play from Holland, who would have got the man of the match award had it not been for White’s contribution, setting up Ashmore whose goalbound shot was deflected behind.
Holland and Ashmore were surprisingly booked for challenges which were basically harmless but it was a good day for Matlock who totally deserved the three points.
STAFFORD RANGERS: 1 Jon Brain, 2 Michael Carr (15 Jack Langston 34) 3 Oliver Davies 4 Lucan Spiottle 5 Darren Bullock 6 Jermaine Johnson 7 James McCarthy 8 Joe Guest 9 Danny Quinn (16 Jon Sheldon 73) 10 Ed Toner (18 Jack Lees 62) 11 Sam Bell Other subs: 12 Christian Dacres 14 Alex Steadman
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Jon Kennedy 2 Micky Harcourt 3 Lee Featherstone (12 Oscar Radford 10) 4 Martin Foster 5 David Haggerty 6 Adam Yates 7 Liam Needham 8 James Ashmore 9 Danny Holland 10 Darryl Thomas (14 Corey Gregory 75) 11 Lavelle White Other subs: 15 Will Dennis 16 Liam Gaughan
REFEREE; Gary Hilton (Warrington) ATTENDANCE: 412 BEST GLADIATOR: Lavelle White