Matlock Town 0-2 Stafford Rangers
A home banker turned into a nightmare for Matlock who were on the end of a shock defeat.
Struggling Stafford, in third bottom spot before kick off, with just two away wins at already doomed Droylsden and all but relegated Stocksbridge, rode their luck due to atrocious Matlock finishing to inflict only the Gladiators second defeat of the season at the Autoworld Arena.
And Matlock’s afternoon was made much worse when David Haggerty, potentially Matlock’s player of the season, was stretchered off in the 65th minute and taken by ambulance to Chesterfield Royal Hospital with a facial injury after a collision with Stafford goalkeeper Andrew Jones. Haggerty was later released from hospital but the diagnosis is a couple of broken bones around the eye which looks like his season is over.
Matlock badly missed the suspended Shaun Tuton, the striker commenced a three match ban following his harsh dismissal against Skelmersdale a fortnight earlier. His replacement Darryl Thomas had an afternoon to forget, missing a hatful of chances, ones which would have put the game beyond Stafford, who in the first half, looked the poorest side to visit Matlock this season.
Oscar Radford failed a fitness test so Adam Yates dropped back into central defence with Thomas and Lavell White coming into the starting eleven.
White looked lively early on but all too often he lacked the quality final product. As Matlock bombarded the Rangers goal, Haggerty had a 4th minute header cleared off the line.
Chances to break the deadlock and ease the nerves came regularly for Matlock. Thomas was unlucky with a diving header from a left wing cross at the far post but then missed some far easier opportunities, including one from less than a yard out. Then on 42 minutes James Ashmore drove too high from an excellent position.
But there was a nasty and painful sting in the tail for Matlock. Stafford had scarcely been over the half way line but they broke forward through Daniel Cope down the right, his cross caught Leesley on the hand and a penalty was awarded. ANDREW GRIFFITHS confidently tucked away the spot kick and Rangers had a valuable, but undeserved lead having had the wind at their backs.
Straight after the restart Thomas somehow headed against the bar from two yards out to increase his own personal andd his side’s frustration. Jones then spilled an Ashmore free kick but escaped punishment as the ball was scrambled untidily away.
The game was handed to Stafford on 57 minutes when from a free kick, Jon Kennedy hesitated and substitute JAMES McCARTHY looped a header into the net.
Haggerty’s injury came when a corner was incorrectly awarded after White had shot too high from another fine position, and even with a two goal lead Rangers looked vulnerable. Equally though, their confidence increased, perhaps subconsciously knowing it was going to be their day.
Jones asved superbly from Leesley and then Danny Holland before Thomas spurned another great chance, his shot skimming wide from sixteen yards with only Jones to beat.
The defeat has in all probability extinguished Matlock’s play off hopes, while Stafford still need a miracle to stay up. It proves that nothing should be taken for granted in football.
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Jon Kennedy 2 Micky Harcourt 3 Joe Leesley 4 Martin Foster (12 Corey Gregory 58) 5 David Haggerty (14 Cecil Nyoni 65) 6 Adam Yates 7 Liam Needham 8 James Ashmore 9 Danny Holland 10 Darryl Thomas (16 Alex Bradshaw 89) 11 Lavell White Other subs: 15 Liam Gaughan 17 Matty Leese
STAFFORD RANGERS: 1 Andrew Jones 2 Andrew Griffiths 3 Oliver Davies 4 Joseph Ballinger 5 Darren Bullock 6 Lewis Chalmers (15 Chris Smith 65) 7 Levi Reid 8 Ian Craney 9 Matthew Berkeley (12 James McCarthy 53) 10 Daniel Cope (14 Saul Henderson 78) 11 Alex Curtis. Other subs: 16 Jack Lees 17 Matthew Johnson
REFEREE: D Street (West Yorkshire) ATTENDANCE: 346 BEST GLADIATOR: Micky Harcourt