One lapse of concentration in defence and a host of missed chances cost Matlock dear and brought about their fourth defeat in five games at Marston Road on Saturday.
Stafford were there for the taking, as Matlock dominated most of the game, it was a match that Matlock should have got something from.
Three new signings had been drafted in to the Matlock squad during the week. One, winger Kane Richards who had terrorised Matlock in Derby County’s friendly win at the Reynolds Stadium three weeks ago, started. Two others, striker Shaun Tuton and midfielder Kevin Deakin were on the bench.
Lewis McMahon was recalled after injury and should have put Matlock in front on 7 minutes. Richards, a constant threat with his direct running and pace, beat full back Ryan Brown easily to cross to the far post where McMahon sliced his shot wide. Soon afterwards another excellent chance went begging. Ryan Laight rolled a neat pass to Nathan Joynes who found Lee Ellington who wasted the opportunity of a first competitive goal for Matlock by screwing his shot past a post with only goalkeeper Danny Read to beat.
A goalbound Richards shot unluckily struck Adam Yates to bounce out for a goal kick, before another Richards cross was headed out for a corner by Ryan Dicker from which Lukic headed over the bar. Yates then released Richards who took on a brace of Rangers defenders before firing inches past the far post.
Matlock needed a goal to show for their enterprise and endeavour, it was the best they had played so far this campaign.
Rangers fired a warning shot as Jon Kennedy pulled off a fine block save from Danny Quinn in the 28th minute and four minutes later they went ahead. Luke Bottomer found space on the right to centre and the unmarked SIMON EVERALL powered a free header past Kennedy to give Rangers an undeserved lead.
Matlock ought to have been back level on 38 minutes as a Nathan Joynes header struck the bar from a corner and Lukic looked only to need the slightest of touches to convert the rebound but his header had too much purchase on it and went too high.
The half ended with Quinn miscueing for Stafford when well placed and Matlock reflecting that they should have had the points sewn up.
McMahon headed a Richards cross over the bar as Matlock were immediately on the attack in the second half, before a faulty first touch from McMahon, who was in a promising position inside the Rangers penalty box, saw him collide with goalkeeper Danny Read, the referee awarding a corner.
Stafford coped more comfortably with the Gladiators threat after the interval, the hosts doubling up on Richards who was the main source of danger.
Clear cut chances were few and far between which obviously suited Stafford more, the Rangers being content to hold on to their slender advantage. A chance did come for Matlock though but Richards nodded wide from eight yards with two minutes left.
Older supporters will remember humdingers in the seventies before crowds of 2000 when the Rangers and the Gladiators locked horns. Sadly this contest never threatened to reach any great heights. Stafford have been through some difficult times and it is reflected in their current status and the standard of their current side.
As for Matlock, it’s now four blanks in five games and fourteen goals conceded. These are worrying times for them but they showed on Saturday signs that their fortunes might improve. Their effort could not be faulted, but they need to start scoring and picking up some points to boost confidence.
MATLOCK TOWN: Jon Kennedy, Ryan laight (Joe Leesley 83), Phil Roe, Martin Foster, Luke Foster, James Lukic, Kane Richards, Adam Yates, Lee Ellington, Lewis McMahon (Kevin Deakin 63), Nathan Joynes (Shaun Tuton 75) Other subs: Lee Featherstone, Nick Buxton
Referee: M Wilkes–Stourbridge Attendance: 435 Star Man: Kane Richards