Matlock served up an opening day horror show as they went down to their heaviest ever first day home defeat in the Northern Premier League.
After some uplifting displays in pre season, Matlock faltered badly when it mattered the most, there were certainly precious few positives to take from a performance when they were comfortably second best all over the park.
The Gladiators brought in central defender Luke Foster from Sheffield United on Friday night with Laurence Gaughan injured and captain James Lukic suspended. He was one of five debutants in the Gladiators starting line up.
Nantwich, attacking the cricket end went on the attack from the first whistle as Kyle Wilson crossed from the right and Lewis Short glanced wide at the back post under pressure from Micky Harcourt with just thirty seconds played.
One of the few Matlock positives was Bradley Grayson on the right wing, his pace was always a great outlet for Matlock and perhaps it should have been utilised more. He had the chance of a shot when well placed in the 4th minute, but passed and the move broke down. Rod McDonald then headed out a dangerous Grayson cross for an unproductive corner.
Luke Foster then drove too high before Nantwich countered as Casper Hughes and Fraser Mcclachlan both had shots charged down. But they took a 16th minute lead while Matlock were down to ten men as Micky Harcourt was being treated for a foot injury on the touchline.
KYLE WILSON found room in the Gladiators penalty box to beat Jon Kennedy with a clinical angled drive.
Harcourt came back on but was soon forced off for good with Lee Featherstone taking his place.
Lewis McMahon nodded a Phil Roe free kick at goalkeeper Jon Brain but there was little sign of a Matlock equaliser.
The hosts’ predicament worsened on 35 minutes with Nantwich benefitting from a huge slice of good luck as Lewis Short’s shot struck MARK BEESLEY who knew absolutely nothing about it, the ball changing direction to beat a stranded Kennedy.
Lee Ellington flicked a Kris Bowler cross wide as half time approached, the interval seeing Bowler withdrawn and young Joe Leesley entering the fray.
McMahon drove narrowly wide from twenty yards in the 48th minute, but Nantwich always carried the more potent threat. A great block from Luke Foster prevented a Wilson strike from causing damage and Kennedy did well to push aside Wilson’s twenty two yarder. Wilson was a class apart from any other forward on the pitch.
Matlock’s best effort came on 55 minutes when Brain pulled off a flying save from an Ellington header. Leesley cut in to fire wide shortly afterwards but from then on Matlock simply caved in.
WILSON turned Luke Foster inside out to thread in Nantwich’s third goal in the 65th minute and two more goals quickly followed.
On 71, a once in a lifetime goal from SHAUN COOKE who beat Kennedy with a lob from just inside the Matlock half brought more misery for the homesters which was completed just four minutes later as Nantwich cut through the brittle Matlock defence for substitute WILL JONES to convert from close range.
Niall Maguire missed a good chance to make it six as Matlock lost possession from their own free kick.
That was perhaps indicative of the Matlock performance, careless, laboured and lacking drive.
MATLOCK TOWN: Jon Kennedy, Micky Harcourt (Lee Featherstone 20), Phil Roe, Martin Foster, Adam Yates, Luke Foster, Bradley Grayson, James Ashmore, Lee Ellington, Lewis McMahon (Ben Algar 58), Kris Bowler (Joe Leesley 46)
Other subs: Ryan Hindley, Nick Buxton
REFEREE: S Eagland (Lichfield) ATTENDANCE: 293 STAR MAN: Bradley Grayson