Matlock Town 0-0 Whitby Town – Evo Stik NPL
A tight, hard fought encounter deservedly ended with honours even with both teams having spells in the ascendancy.
But neither side had that extra touch of class to unlock defences which ruled for much of the contest.
That is not to say that chances did not present themselves and Matlock had the better ones, particularly in the second half when they dominated for the first twenty five minutes. But then the Seasiders, whose recent good return of twenty six points from the last thirty nine on offer had taken them to a safe mid table slot, finished the stronger and the Gladiators had to stand firm to earn their point.
Manager Mark Atkins named an unchanged starting line up which had brought back a deserved point from high flying Hednesford seven days earlier. Top scorer Lewis McMahon was again on the bench as he eases his way back after an ankle injury, and there was a new name for Gladiators fans to conjure with in Portuguese midfielder Geoffrey Gouveia, signed from Lincoln City.
A 9 am pitch inspection had deemed a heavy pitch fit for play and Whitby had the first attack of note which came to nothing as Jon Kennedy comfortably held a tame strike from midfielder Shane Henry.
A terrific forty yard through ball from Adam Yates saw the speedy Brad Grayson sneak in behind the Whitby defence only for Grayson to slip at the vital moment, but a cross towards emergency centre forward Laurence Gaughan still came in which was cleared.
The referee annoyed the home fans by ignoring a blatant foul on Martin Foster in midfield, the ball breaking for Henry who shot powerfully over the bar from twenty five yards. Henry again got forward to slice a cross from winger Ashley Corker well wide. Corker then shot too high after a quickly taken Matlock free kick by Kennedy had put Micky Harcourt in trouble.
Whitby came closer still on 36 minutes when Kevin Burgess fired goalwards from a corner but James Ashmore was ideally placed to clear off the line.
Matlock responded with opportunities from set pieces of their own both delivered by Joe Leesley.
A 43rd minute free kick looked like being met by James Lukic who could not get a connection as the ball bounced agonisingly wide before on the stroke of half time, a corner found Grayson whose effort was scrambled off the line with Gaughan blazing the loose ball high over the bar.
Matlock made a positive start to the second half with penalty appeals being rejected when a Leesley cross from the left appeared to strike Burgess on the arm.
Then a great chance for the hosts to lead was squandered on 51 minutes when Grayson found himself clear on the right but goalkeeper Nick Liversedge was out quickly to block the shot.
Soon afterwards a cross from Harcourt skidded through the Whitby penalty box just out of Leesley’s radar after good buildup play involving the industrious Foster and Grayson.
Whitby’s top scorer Craig Farrell shot wide from distance before McMahon was introduced to try and aid Matlock’s attacking potency.
Almost immediately McMahon chested the ball to Gaughan who shot wildly on to the cricket field before with twenty minutes left, a carbon copy of Grayson’s earlier chance, thisone created by McMahon, had the same result with the Blues number seven clear on the right but firing against Liversedge.
Those two misses might have proved ultra expensive as Whitby had thebetter of theremainder of the match with Kennedy denying Henry with a fine save on 73 minutes.
Ben Algar was brought on for Leesley who minutes earlier had been booked for pulling back Henry in midfield but Matlock were having to defend more now.
Yates produced two tremendous blocks in two minutes from Nathan Mulligan and Henry before substitute Steven Snaith shot straight at Kennedy.
Bookings followed for Gaughan who fouled Arjun Purewal and Whitby’s player boss Darren Williams for dissent and Henry pulled a shot harmlessly wide at the death.
Matlock are looking increasingly hard to beat with their back four putting in a decent shift backed up with the industry of Foster and Gareth Davies in their engine room.
They just lacked that killer instinct in the opposing penalty box which could be remedied with the impending return of fifteen goal striker Massiah McDonald after suspension and the continued recuperation of twenty one goal marksman McMahon.
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Jon Kennedy 2 Micky Harcourt 3 Lee Featherstone 4 Martin Foster 5 Adam Yates 6 James Lukic 7 Brad Grayson 8 James Ashmore 9 Laurence Gaughan 10 Gareth Davies (12 Lewis McMahon 58), 11 Joe Leesley (14 Ben Algar 79) Other subs: 15 James Travis 16 Geoffrey Gouveia 17 Nick Buxton
WHITBY TOWN: 1 Nick Liversedge 2 Ibrahim Hassan 3 Mark Robinson 4 Kevin Burgess (14 Arjun Purewal 60) 5 Alex White 6 David McTiernan (15 Darren Williams 73) 7 Tom Portas 8 Shane Henry 9 Craig Farrell 10 Nathan Mulligan (12 Steven Snaith 83) 11 Ashley Corker. Other subs: 16 Graeme Armstrong 17 David Campbell
REFEREE: M Perry (Sutton Coldfield) ATTENDANCE: 271 STAR GLADIATOR: Adam Yates.