Goals in each half from Micky Harcourt and Danny Holland saw the Gladiators through to the next round of the FA Trophy, but the game will not linger long in the memory.
In a game of few chances and little goalmouth action, it was a case of Matlock taking two chances which came their way, while St Neots, in spite of having sixty per cent of the possession, were toothless up front and never looked like penetrating a sturdy Matlock defence which kept a third successive clean sheet.
The match had got off to a promising start with Lavell White cutting in from the left to fire a decent strike at goal which goalkeeper Niall Conroy only held at the second attempt. Given the conditions, both sides should really have tried their luck more.
St Neots are struggling in second bottom spot in the Calor Gas Southern League Premier division and they shot themselves in the foot by conceding a sloppy opening goal to their highly placed Northern hosts. With 15 minutes on the clock, Corey Gregory floated in a corner from the right and nobody in red challenged MiICKY HARCOURT who was given a free leap and easy header.
That should have been the signal for Matlock to tear into their visitors but strangely the Gladiators stood off their opponents who were given time and space to play in midfield. Fortunately though for Matlock, when the visitors reached the edge of the penalty box, moves constantly broke down and it meant that Jon Kennedy was only seriously tested twice.
The first came from an 18th minute Lewis Hilliard free kick which Kennedy fingertipped over the bar and the second came at the death with Matlock two goals in front. Substitute Lewis Wilson’s fierce strike met the same fate as Hilliard’s free kick.
The match had survived an early morning pitch inspection and with heavy rain an hour and a half before kick off, conditions were far from ideal but the crowd deserved more from a game which can be described as average at best, but more accurately a dour struggle. That was just about it as half time arrived with hopes of an improvement for the second half.
Sadly those hopes did not materialise. The effort was there but the flair was missing. St Neots knocked on the door of the Matlock defence on numerous occasions but found it to be slammed shut in their faces as again the Gladiators back four all put in fine performances.
Of the few chances created, Matlock had the better ones with Holland bearing down on goal from the right,playing a well worked one two with Gregory before miskicking when he pulled the trigger. The ball rolled comfortably into Conroy’s grasp.Later Holland advanced forward again to combine fortunately with White and Liam Needham took over to feed substitute Bradley Grayson who curled a shot wide of the far post.
The Gladiators place in the next round was confirmed with two minutes remaining as James Ashmore broke at pace down the right to cross low to the near post. Grayson was unable to turn the ball in as St Neots captain Gavin Hoyte challenged but the alert HOLLAND was lurking to steer home the loose ball.
For Matlock it was simply a matter of job done,and prize money earned, but deep in the knowledge that it had not been one of their better performances. They seldom got out of first gear and on the day they didn’t need to.
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Jon Kennedy 2 Micky Harcourt 3 Joe Leesley 4 James Ashmore 5 David Haggerty 6 Adam Yates 7 Liam Needham 8 Corey Gregory (12 Martin Foster 73) 9 Danny Holland 10 Lewis McMahon (15 Bradley Grayson 64) 11 Lavell White (14 Oscar Radford 86) Subs not used: 16 Lee Featherstone 17 Matty Leese
ST NEOT’S TOWN,: 1 Niall Conroy 2 Alasan Ann, 3 Ben Ford (14 Joseph N’Guessan 86) 4 Dan Crowie 5 Gavin Hoyte 6 Dave Deeney 7 Lewis Hilliard 8 Liam Hurst 9 Jake Woolley 10 Jay Davies 11 Bobby-Joe Taylor (12 Lewis Wilson 76) Other subs: 15 Ryan Sharman 16 Andy Palmer 17 Richard King
REFEREE: A Clayton (Hyde) ATTENDANCE: 244 Best Gladiator: Micky Harcourt