Matlock fans have had their fair share of sorrow and disappointment this season but after this magnificent win they can stick out their chests and shout from the rooftops.
Every one of the fourteen players used turned in top notch performances, they simply outbattled a physical Chorley side who lay third in the table before kick off and expected to win handsomely. But the points went to Matlock and deservedly so. It was their second successive win after a stuttering start to the campaign and their first clean sheet of the season.
The 36th minute winning goal came from MASSIAH McDONALD, now a star on the Soccer AM programme on Sky TV. The on loan Worksop striker whose skill in setting up a goal for Joe Leesley at North Ferriby was the leading feature in the weekly Showboating section of the programme, certainly didn’t stand on ceremony as he made room for himself on the edge of the box to thump an emphatic finish beyond Jack Cudworth from a Phil Roe pass.
From then on Matlock looked totally determined not to let slip that slender and valuable advantage.
There was a double blow for the hosts on the morning of the game with captain James Lukic and top scorer Lewis McMahon ringing in with a sickness virus. So Adam Yates partnered Oscar Radford at the heart of the defence with McDonald returning after suspension to go alongside Joe Leesley in attack. James Ashmore was in the Gladiators engine room alongside deputy skipper Martin Foster and Gareth Davies.
A tight, competitive start saw neither team assume control as it looked to be a case of the competitors sizing each other up to try and create an opening. Chorley, forced to make a late change when midfielder Dale Whitham limped out of the pre match warm up to be replaced by Simon Garner, had a sight of goal on 12 minutes but Kirk Millar’s fierce strike sailed yards into the nearby cricket ground.
A better chance fell to Kane Richards just two minutes later as he swept in front of full back David Mellor but flicked Roe’s cross narrowly wide. Winger John Cunliffe could not take a short cross from Adam Roscoe in his stride before the Magpies’ best opportunity of the game on 22 minutes saw Iranian striker Porya Ahmadi, who netted a hat-trick in the 5-1 home win against Frickley three days earlier, head powerfully and agonisingly past Jon Kennedy’s right hand post.
The Gladiators forced a corner on the left, whipped in by Davies and Cudworth flapped unconvincingly clear. Then at the other end Adam Roscoe was slow off the mark to read Cunliffe’s diagonal pass and Kennedy was quickly off his line to win possession.
McDonald brought the sparse crowd, Town’s lowest of the season, to it’s feet with his cracking goal. Shortly afterwards Richards went down under challenge from Mellor and was then booked for his retaliatory foul under the totting up procedure.
Matlock succeeded in knocking their higher placed opponents out of their stride. If Matlock failed to win the first ball they ensured they won the second and the home crowd could sense they could play their part in bringing home the bacon.
Defensively Matlock looked strong and resolute with full back Micky Harcourt scarcely putting a foot wrong all night. Ashmore showed everyone just how his energy had been missed in a busy midfield performance.
Cunliffe could easily have been booked for a cynical 53rd minute challenge on Harcourt.
Two minutes later though Matlock might have doubled their lead as McDonald breezed past labouring Magpies skipper Andy Teague and the visitors were indebted to Cudworth who saved brilliantly in a one on one duel, beating away the forward’s shot.
Foster was forced off after turning an ankle bringing on Glyn Cotton. Leesley won a corner on the left which was dropped by Cudworth but referee Burgess, perhaps sensing his generosity in awarding the flag kick when it was most certainly a goal kick, evened things up by blowing for a Chorley free kick.
A Harcourt free kick whistled a yard too high, then Leesley, who along with McDonald was always a willing workhorse, robbed Teague but was forced wide and centred disappointingly behind, possibly showing his inexperience with McDonald promisingly positioned in support.
Radford punted clear when Matlock were briefly caught napping from a long free kick, flicked on by Roscoe and headed back into the mix by Ahmadi.
Richards could have put the game to bed in the 78th minute but dallied too long from McDonald’s pass and substitute Andy Russell’s sliding tackle was exquisitely timed.
Chorley became increasingly desperate in search of a leveller and often resorted to the big high ball. Kennedy dropped on a shot from substitute and prolific marksman Ciaran Kilheeney with three minutes to go before Matlock broke, but Cotton was always stretching in a challenge with Teague, and he was the second Gladiator to be yellow carded. Teague’s stamp on Cotton in retaliation went unseen by the official.
Garner was then booked for fouling Cotton, the breaks in play all working in Matlock’s favour. Radford scrambled away a low cross for an unproductive corner before Matlock sensibly ran time down near the Chorley corner flag with four added minutes being played.
The last whistle was met with jubilation and relief. It was Town’s best display and best result of the campaign.
MATLOCK TOWN: Jon Kennedy, Micky Harcourt, Phil Roe, Martin Foster (Glyn Cotton 59), Oscar Radford, Adam Yates, Kane Richards, James Ashmore, Massiah McDonald (Ben Algar 90+2), Joe Leesley (Bradley Grayson 82), Gareth Davies. Other subs: Will Dennis, Nick Buxton.
REFEREE: A Burgess-Killamarsh. ATTENDANCE: 227 STAR MAN: Micky Harcourt.