Matlock Town 2-1 Barwell
Matlock “won ugly” according to manager Mark Atkins against a physical Barwell side given licence to use bullying tactics by a weak referee.
But at the end of the day a win is a win and the Gladiators dug deep showing tremendous resolve to earn their fourth league win on the bounce.
The Leicestershire side luckily finished with eleven players on the field, given that defender Guy Hadland might have been red carded for pulling back Danny Holland who looked to have a clear route to goal and goalkeeper Liam Castle prevented a back pass from finding the target through a clear handball which was later followed by him taking down Holland in full flight. Then at the death a stray elbow from substitute Oliver Brown-Hill caught Adam Yates in the face earning the culprit only a booking.
But the strong arm tactics failed to deter Matlock from earning another excellent three points which saw them return to fourth spot in the table after slipping to seventh after the previous night’s results.
The back pass incident came in the 5th minute when Scott Lower overhit his delivery forcing Castle to dive low to push the ball clear with his left paw. More controversy followed as the alert Darryl Thomas rolled a short pass to Corey Gregory to fire into an empty net. But the “goal” was ruled out as referee Joe Hull ruled it had been taken from the wrong place. Barwell got lucky as James AshmoreLiam then blasted his shot into the big wall Barwell formed to avert the danger.
The accurate long ball over a static Barwell defence was offering Matlock great encouragement but from a shorter pass by Holland fed Thomas but Castle was out quickly to hack clear. Then Holland was on to a throw from the right to turn and screw a low left footer wide.
When Hadland received a yellow card for pulling back Holland instead of the red the home crowd were baying for, it led to the Gladiators securing a 15th minute lead. A thunderous thirty yard free kick from MICKY HARCOURT took a wicked deflection and Castle was well beaten.
The lead lasted just three minutes as a hasty trip by Gregory on Daniel Spencer gave the man in black a relatively easy decision to award a spot kick. LUKE BARLONE smashed a power packed shot down the middle.
That setback knocked Matlock back somewhat as despite the best efforts of outstanding skipper Needham, Barwell began to get a grip of the midfield but without threatening goalkeeper Jon Kennedy from the final third.
Castle received a yellow card for hauling down Holland a yard outside the box in the 33rd minute, this time the free kick from Harcourt being blocked at the expense of a corner. But it was Matlock who fashioned the best chance of the half seven minutes later from the move of the night when Oscar Radford fed Holland who flicked a neat pass into Gregory only for the midfielder to lift his shot narrowly over the bar.
Needham retired with a foot injury in the opening minute of the second half to bring on Anton Foster. Almost immediately Thomas chased down a back pass to block Castle’s clearance, the ball ricocheting fiercely past a post.
But THOMAS would be the match winner on 53 minutes as Holland did well to rob Richard Lavery, and break clear. Castle parried Holland’s drive but Thomas was following up to fire in the loose ball for his tenth goal of the season.
Castle looked a bag of nerves at times as one of a number of miskicks was seized upon by Thomas just three minutes later, the ball eventually squirming wide.
Radford was proving to be a star at both ends of the pitch and from a quickly taken throw on the hour he combined sweetly with Holland before Castle beat away his powerful drive.
Barwell went direct as they began to exert some pressure on a Matlock defence in which David Haggerty and Adam Yates were outstanding in the centre. But for all of their pressure, Kennedy was only tested once, three minutes from time when Spencer forced him to drop quickly on an angled drive from the left. Earlier Ashmore had been well placed to hack clear from a Lavery header.
Castle was nearly embarrassed on 79 minutes when on one of his regular jaunts off his line, Holland tried his luck from forty five yards, but was denied a spectacular goal as he was just a yard wide of the upright.
The football wasn’t pretty at times, but having gone in front for a second time,, Matlock showed a steely determination not to concede again. Foster and visiting captain Scott Hadland were also booked as they clashed in midfield in what was a war of attrition at times.
But Matlock won the battle to prove that bullies sometimes get their just desserts.
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Jon Kennedy 2 Micky Harcourt 3 Oscar Radford 4 Corey Gregory 5 David Haggerty 6 Adam Yates 7 Liam Needham (12 Anton Foster 46). 8 James Ashmore, 9 Danny Holland (14 Joe Leesley 80), 10 Darryl Thomas 11 Lavelle White Other subs: 15 Will Dennis 16 Liam Gaughan 17 Matty Leese
BARWELL: 1 Liam Castle 2 Scott Lower (14 Nigel Julien) 3 Jack Edwards 4 Guy Hadland 5 Richard Lavery 6 Louis Harris (12 Elliott Putman 73) 7 Keiron Brehon 8 Scott Hadland 9 Luke Barlone (15 Oliver Brown-Hill 87), 10 Daniel Spencer 11 Thomas Weale Other subs: 16 David Barnett 17 Leighton Simmonds
REFEREE: Mr J Hull (Stockport) ATTENDANCE: 247 BEST GLADIATOR: Oscar Radford