Magnificent Matlock fully deserved this fantastic win at promotion chasing Marine who were outplayed, out-thought and happy to have lost by just a two goal margin.
Two goals ahead at the interval through Massiah McDonald, who was a constant menace to Marine, and Bradley Grayson, Matlock were pegged back when Andy Fowler converted a harshly awarded spot kick five minutes into the second half, but crucially the Gladiators restored their two goal lead inside just four minutes when skipper James Lukic headed in the third.
Top scorer Lewis McMahon began a three game ban so Bradley Grayson came into the starting line up which saw McDonald employed as the one out and striker but receiving tremendous attacking support from the likes of Glyn Cotton, James Ashmore, Grayson, Gareth Davies and Adam Yates from midfield. Manager Mark Atkins had done his homework and got his tactics spot on.
Oscar Radford was recalled after sitting out the FA Trophy ties with Leek through being cup tied and he, along with the rest of the defence, was in top form as apart from the penalty, the high flying hosts could only muster one more shot in the game. That was a wild effort from Paul Brown in the first half which drifted high and not handsomely wide.
McDonald signalled his intentions firing wide inside forty seconds, and might have given Town an early lead when on 7 minutes he was played clear by an excellent Cotton pass. In a one on one duel with goalkeeper Ryan McMahon, it was the Liverpudlian who this time came out on top with a fine block save to concede a corner. McMahon less convincingly smacked a clearance against his defender Matty Brown when a Yates pass was chased by McDonald, then on 22 minutes, fine play by Micky Harcourt on the right saw the full back deliver an inviting cross which saw McDonald outjump Danny Grannon, but head over the bar.
McMahon pushed away a Grayson shot when a free kick was only partially cleared and a moment’s hesitation cost Cotton, who was well set up by Ashmore for a shooting opportunity. The chance went as quickly as it was created.
McDonald used his blistering pace to great effect on the half hour when from a Marine corner he outpaced the Mariners defence but again McMahon was Marine’s saviour with a fine save in another one on one situation.
But Matlock would not be denied and two goals in four minutes finally gave them the advantage their play and dominance had deserved. In the 35th minute, the ball found McDONALD in the box from a throw on the right and a smart turn was followed by a crisp angled shot across McMahon. The second by GRAYSON was virtually a carbon copy of the opener,with McDonald finding the former Frickley man whose turn was exquisite and the finish calm and collected from the same spot as where McDonald had scored his goal.
There was a fifteen minute delay at the start of the second half due to an injury to an assistant referee and after a replacement was found, the Mariners had what looked to be a lifeline in the 50th minute.
A firmly driven cross from the right hit Cotton who could not get out of the way and FOWLER fiercely struck the spot kick down the centre of the goal. Kennedy got a hand to the ball but could not keep it out. Cotton and Lukic were booked for protesting while Radford, for a foul and McDonald, who tangled with Matty Brown joined them later in the game.
The two goal lead was quickly restored though as Harcourt’s free kick from deep on the right was met by Lukic whose looping header easily beat McMahon.
Marine could do little with the ball due to the Gladiators hunting in numbers like a pack of hungry wolves. A comeback was never on and Grayson might have made it four with a left foot effort which skidded inches wide after good approach play from Davies.
So it was just about the perfect performance and Matlock’s third league win on the trot. It has to go down as their best display for many months and as Marine observers sportingly acknowledged, they were beaten by a far better side on the day and can have no complaints about the outcome.
MATLOCK TOWN: Jon Kennedy, Micky Harcourt, Phil Roe, Glyn Cotton, Oscar Radford, James Lukic, Bradley Grayson (Martin Foster 66), James Ashmore, Massiah McDonald (Laurence Gaughan 89), Adam Yates, Gareth Davies. Subs not used: Joe Leesley, Kane Richards, Will Dennis.
REFEREE: R Bartlett–Sale. ATTENDANCE: 356 STAR MAN: Massiah McDonald.