Matlock Town 2-1 Skelmersdale United
A magnificent performance from the boys in blue earned the hosts a deserved win against second in the table Skelmersdale, in spite of having to play the final sixty four minutes with only ten men.
Shaun Tuton, who had earlier given Matlock the lead in the first outing at the renamed Autoworld Arena, was sent off after a tackle on Peter Wylie which was innocuous and probably worthy of a yellow card at the very worst.
But Manchester official Matt Donohue could not brandish the red card quickly enough and it looked as if the Gladiators would be enduring a long afternoon.
The response from Matlock though was first class, as was the winner from Danny Holland with sixteen minutes left, and the majority of the 367 crowd went home happy, having witnessed an epic Matlock performance.
If manager Mark Atkins wanted a positive reaction to the previous week’s mauling at Rushall, then he certainly got it. He brought in Lavell White and relegated James Ashmore to the bench, which also contained under nineteen player Alex Bradshaw.
Matlock twice might have scored before Tuton gave them a 22nd minute lead.
Holland, looking on top of his game, produced a fine curling lob from twenty yards which narrowly cleared the crossbar. Then Tuton broke through and Visiting goalkeeper Zac Hibbert was quickly off his line to block his shot.
The Holland/Tuton combination bore fruit when Holland neatly touched on a punt from Jon Kennedy and TUTON rattled a firmly struck twenty five yarder on the run past the diving Hibbert for a deserved Matlock lead.
The sending off briefly changed the complexion of the game. Predictably Skelmersdale poured forward and when on 34 minutes DEAN ASTBURY turned Oscar Radford to fire in a low diagonal shot, it looked as if the match might go Skelmersdale’s way.
Astbury had another chance shortly before the interval but saw his shot deflected past Kennedy’s left hand post.
Atkins must have produced a masterful team talk at the interval for Matlock came out with all guns blazing and remarkably given their one man advantage, the West Lancashire side created little.
The closest the visitors came was on 64 minutes when Joe Leesley’s header back to Kennedy rebounded off a post and into the grateful keeper’s hands!
Micky Harcourt’s free kick dipped a little too late to beat the bar two minutes after the restart and a minute after his own goal escape, Leesley was up at the other end, to fire narrowly past the far post after an enterprising break down the left.
The referee, who was low in the popularity stakes with the Matlock faithful, seemed to be making mistake after mistake and Matlock nearly made hay on 72 minutes when Harcourt headed a shade too high from a corner incorrectly awarded to them.
But two minutes later the Autoworld Arena erupted with a goal of the highest quality from HOLLAND, who turned on a low ball from Leesley to strike a venomous rising shot beyond the diving Hibbert into the roof of the net.
Skelmersdale huffed and puffed but failed miserably in breaking down Matlock’s defensive door, which was now back in full working order following the hiccup at Rushall.
It might have been 3-1 late on when Harcourt’s great pass fed substitute Daryll Thomas who could only fire weakly at Hibbert.
The final whistle brought the Gladiators a standing ovation and boos for the man in black who could have spoiled a magnificent game. All it did was increase Matlock’s resolve to win the points.
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Jon Kennedy 2 Micky Harcourt 3 Joe Leesley 4 Martin Foster (15 James Ashmore) 5 David Haggerty 6 Oscar Radford 7 Liam Needham 8 Adam Yates 9 Danny Holland (14 Corey Gregory 85), 10 Shaun Tuton 11 Lavell White (12 Daryll Thomas 61) Other subs: 16 Alex Bradshaw 17 Matty Leese
SKELMERSDALE UNITED: 1 Zac Hibbert 2 Peter Wylie (14 Adam Morning 81) 3 Shaun Holden 4 Tom Hardwick 5 Alan Burton 6 Ashley Dunn 7 Sean Miller (15 Lewis Field 66) 8 Neil Prince 9 Dean Astbury 10 Mark Jackson (12 Chris Simm 61) 11 Tom Ince Other subs: 16 Daniel Greene 17 Jonah O’Reilly
REFEREE: M Donohue (Manchester) ATTENDANCE: 367 BEST GLADIATOR: Danny Holland