Just the finishing touch was missing from another promising Matlock performance as a youthful Blades won by the only goal of the game at the Reynolds Stadium on Wednesday night.
The Gladiators received a glowing report from the opposing manager Danny Wilson who told Matlock boss Mark Atkins that his Evo-Stik League side had been the better of the two teams and United were fortunate to go home with the win.
Certainly there was much to admire in the Matlock performance. Gone it seems is the big hoof from last season, now the ball is played crisply through midfield, although the long ball is still sometimes effective.
Both sides’ play was pleasing on the eye but it was also a competitive affair and each manager would have derived some benefit from what was on offer for the 478 crowd on a warm, sunny summers night.
United fashioned the first chance in the 4th minute when Callum McFadzean burst through the right of the Matlock rearguard but could only fire straight at Jon Kennedy. The hosts response was a slick passing move which came to nothing as they over elaborated allowing United’s defenders to deny them space and clear the danger.
Bradley Grayson, partnering Nathan Joynes in attack, found winger Ryan Hindley in space on the right but the number seven’s control deserted him as he attempted to pull the trigger.
Then Lewis Mcmahon, like Joynes, back in the reckoning after a fortnight out through injury, slipped a neat pass to Hindley whose low cross flashed across the penalty box. Another Hindley cross was nodded wide by Joynes and goalkeeper George Long held a snap shot from Grayson as Matlock grabbed the initiative.
Joynes drew applause for a neat turn fifteen yards out before dragging his shot inches past the far post. The busy Grayson found himself in space on the right only to disappoint with a poor cross but the former Frickley striker did better soon afterwards, latching on to an Adam Yates pass before leaving two defenders for dead in a weaving run before Long blocked his shot from an acute angle.
Lee Ellington and Ben Algar replaced Grayson and Hindley at the interval and within three minutes Ellington was intelligently feeding McMahon whose low cross from the left was scrambled away.
Then came the decisive moment as midfielder ERIC TONNE got the better of Martin Foster, Matlock defenders then standing off and being punished as 25 yards from goal, Tonne shot low hard and true past Jon Kennedy’s left hand in the 54th minute.
Club captain James Lukic replaced temporary skipper Lee Featherstone with James Ashmore and Joe Leesley also entering the fray for Gareth Davies and Joynes. Almost immediately Leesley nodded a clearance on towards Algar who checked his run and returned to the eighteen year old who chipped into Long’s hands.
Tonne and Ironside forced Kennedy to save well before Matlock dominated the final twenty minutes.
Algar’s tricky run ended with a tame effort and a flowing move saw McMahon fire at Long who pulled off a top drawer save to tip Algar’s goalbound twenty yard belter over the bar. Algar again threatened from distance, this time his effort drifting wide and as the pressure was maintained, Yates saw his header from a corner blocked, the ball eventually falling to Ashmore whose volley from the edge of the penalty box dropping a couple of feet past Long’s left hand upright.
That late assault and the overall performance deserved more.
MATLOCK TOWN: Jon Kennedy, Micky Harcourt (Will Dennis 82), Phil Roe, Martin Foster (Kris Bowler 80), Adam Yates, Lee Featherstone (James Lukic 58), Ryan Hindley (Ben Algar 46), Gareth Davies (James Ashmore 58), Nathan Joynes (Joe Leesley 58), Lewis McMahon, Bradley Grayson (Lee Ellington 46) Other subs: Kris Witcombe, James Travis.
REFEREE: M Walsh (Sheffield) ATTENDANCE: 478