After Saturday’s opening day humiliation at home to Nantwich, Matlock got the result they wanted, but they left it late.
Trailing to Jimmy Ghiachem’s 21st minute strike, the Gladiators made their travelling fans wait until the 80th minute for their first goal of the season, and then they promptly doubled their tally three minutes later. Lewis McMahon netted from the penalty spot for the equaliser before Joe Leesley’s first competitive goal saw Matlock snatch the points.
The away day monkey was also off their backs as Matlock won their first competitive game on the road since 3 September 2011.
It was certainly not a game for the football purist. Frickley are a big, strong, hard, some might say horrible side who take no prisoners. So Matlock needed to stand up and be counted. Add a hostile crowd into the mix and then you have a job on your hands.
In the main Matlock came through the test, not with flying colours, but in a manner that would please manager Mark Atkins and their fans. They showed bottle if not always looking comfortable on the ball, but that was down partly to the up and at them approach from their Yorkshire hosts on a bumpy surface.
That style suited Frickley who began with three giant centre backs, two strong wing backs and two tall strikers. The ball was pumped long and hard at the earliest opportunity and the matlock defence in which Ryan laight, on his return to the side was outstanding, stood firm.
There was a sniff of a chance for tangerine shirted Matlock in the opening ninety seconds as McMahon drove firmly into the sidenetting from a difficult angle. But they soon lost James Ashmore, helped off with ankle ligament damage in a midfield challenge. It was a hasty end for Ashmore on his return to the Tech 5 Stadium.
Goalkeeper Tom Woodhead held a Lee Ellington header and after Frickley lost striker Gavin Allott with hamstring trouble, the hosts’ Danny South flicked a free kick across the danger zone. But Frickley drew firsat blood when the ball was hoisted forward and GIACHEM found space to beat Kennedy from twenty yards, the ball striking the base of the post on its goalbound journey.
Frickley constantly broke up play through fair and foul means, Matlock being unable to find any noteable rhythm. McMahon had a shot deflected behind before Frickley might have doubled their lead on 38 minutes as Terry Barwick fired a good opportunity into the sidenetting. Shortly afterwards Giachem broke through strongly but fired over the bar.
Matlock had a promising situation just a minute into the second half but Bradley Grayson badly overhit his cross from the right.
Home skipper Matt Bloor drove across the face of goal as Frickley showed no sign of neglecting their direct approach, then being fortunate to remain on the pitch for a late challenge on Martin Foster, having been earlier one of four Frickley players to find their way into Leeds referee Gareth Mellor’s notebook. Matlock just had Martin Foster shown the yellow card.
Ellington wasted a free kick when Martin Foster was brought down twenty yards from goal, hoisting his effort high over the bar. Midfielder Foster, named as captain, then drove towards the onion bag but a deflection took the pace off the ball leaving Woodhead with a straightforward stop.
A Luke Jeffs piledriver flew too high but Frickley began to labour and one foul tackle too many proved to be their undoing when Scott Helliwell sent Leesley sprawling in the box. It was a stonewall penalty and MCMAHON showed no mercy sending Woodhead the wrong way with a crisp finish.
McMahon drove at the goalkeeper as Matlock suddenly had a spring in their step and they turned the game on its head with a brilliantly taken LEESLEY winner. Ryan Hindley kept his head to find the eighteen year old whose acrobatic finish was clinical.
Matlock wasted a couple of promising situations to make the game safe and in five minutes of stoppage time, the nearest Frickley came to saving themselves was a Dave Buck strike which was deflected for a corner.
So Matlock did it the hard way but they’re off the mark and after Tuesday’s results had jumped from bottom to eleventh. But they know there is plenty of hard graft to come in a testing August Bank Holiday programme.
MATLOCK TOWN: Jon Kennedy, Adam Yates, Lee Featherstone, Martin Foster, Ryan Laight, Luke Foster, Bradley Grayson (Ryan Hindley 64), James Ashmore (Kris Bowler 8), Lee Ellington, Lewis McMahon, Joe Leesley (Phil Roe 86)
Other subs: Kris Witcombe, Nick Buxton.
REFEREE: G Mellor–Leeds ATTENDANCE: 250 STAR MAN: Joe Leesley