SKELMERSDALE UNITED 1-0 MATLOCK TOWN
As top of the table clashes go this was a disappointment with fourth placed Matlock hurting the most at the final whistle against the league leaders.
In a stadium with little atmosphere in front of a pitifully poor crowd, last season’s First Division North champions edged home thanks to an 83rd minute strike from Ashley Dunn.
Chances in the second half had been scarce and until the final stages Matlock had looked the more dangerous, and deserved a point, but not all three. They had seldom looked in trouble before Sean Tuck sounded a 78th minute warning as Town goalkeeper Jon Kennedy was down quickly to hold his angled shot.
That late push from Skem probably resulted from them sensing that Matlock had not punished them when the visitors held the upper hand.
There proved to be no escape for Matlock when DUNN was allowed room in the box to fire past Kennedy and the Gladiators had little time left to respond.
Kennedy was the busier of the two goalkeepers in a match where few clear cut chances were created. But he played no part when the hosts found a way through the generally strong Town defence on 9 minutes. Livewire winger Matty Hughes released Dean Astbury who screwed his shot wide of the advancing Town custodian.
Astbury was in again in the 25th minute and this time Kennedy excelled as he pushed aside a low strike after Hughes again had been the instigator.
But Matlock made their mark in between as Danny Holland, again a willing workhorse, drove directly at Andy Paxton before turning neatly to pull his shot inches wide of the near post.
But full back Micky Harcourt was closest of all as again Holland was heavily involved, rolling a pass across the edge of the penalty area only for Harcourt’s shot to beat the diving Paxton but rebound off the foot of the post on 34 minutes.
Then shortly after the restart it was Matlock’s other full back Oscar Radford who came close. bursting into the box to force Paxton to bundle his goalbound shot behind.
Bradley Grayson, having had his international clearance confirmed, replaced Darryl Thomas but could not engineer a breakthrough, before Dunn struck. Then afterwards an Adam Yates header was off target but Matlock could not find anything else from their locker to bear fruit.
The outcome was harsh on Matlock against a side who on this performance will not retain their top of the table status. Certainly AFC Fylde and more definitely Chorley, look more potent title contenders.
SKELMERSDALE UTD: 1 Andy Paxton 2 Peter Wylie 3 Shaun Holden 4 Tom Hardwick 5 Rob McIntosh 6 Ashley Dunn 7 Matty Hughes 8 Kenny Strickland 9 Dean Astbury 10 Porya Ahmadi (16 Sean Tuck 74) 11 Adam Morning (12 Kevin Leadbetter 62) Other subs: 14 Joe Holt 15 Alan BURTON 17 17 Zac Hibbert
1 Jon Kennedy 2 Micky Harcourt 3 Oscar Radford 4 Martin Foster (15 Corey Gregory 84) 5 David Haggerty 6 Adam Yates 7 Liam Needham 8 James Ashmore 9 Danny Holland 10 Darryl Thomas ( 16 Bradley Grayson 74) 11 Lavelle White Other subs: 12 Anton Foster 14 Joe Leesley 17 Matty Leese
REFEREE: S Mycock (Manchester) ATTENDANCE: 191 BEST GLADIATOR: Adam Yates