Matlock Town 1-2 Stamford
On the evidence of Tuesday night’s first home game it could be a long season for Matlock Town.
Both the performance and result were huge disappointments for Gladiators fans as from the twenty minute mark they were outfought and distinctly second best to a well drilled, workmanlike Stamford outfit.
The hosts had the perfect start going ahead from a Danny Holland penalty in only the 3rd minute, but once Nabil Shariff had flashed a fierce drive narrowly wide after 21 minutes, Stamford took over.
Matlock would have been happy to still have been in front by the interval but as they did on Saturday when they came from behind to beat Workington, the Daniels played their trump card, bringing on Ryan Robbins from the bench. Robbins, a tall bustling striker, repeated his fast of the previous weekend by scoring both goals to sink the opposition.
Town retained exactly the same squad who returned from Trafford with a goalless draw in the season’s opener. Their hopes of beginning their home campaign on the front foot received a wonderful boost when Stamford skipper Richard Jones was ruled to have handled in the box. Up stepped HOLLAND to score but not without a flutter in his heart as the ball struck the post on its way into the onion bag.
Holland glanced a header across the six yard box following good work by Liam Needham on the left but that was basically as good as it got for Matlock in the opening half.
Stamford upped the tempo and after Sharriff’s drive, Matlock clung on again twice soon afterwards with Jon Kennedy turning away a Jon Challinor shot for a corner before he pushed clear another effort, this time from Lewis Carr who later sliced wide when Jones headed another flag kick back across the penalty box.
The pressure was briefly relieved as Matlock won a free kick midway in the visitors half which was taken quickly for Jason Stokes to have a shot blocked, the move petering out tamely.
Manager Mark Atkins changed tactics adopting a 4-3-3 formation instead of the earlier 4-4-2 in a bid to alter the flow of the game, but it made little difference.
ROBBINS had only been on the field four minutes when he netted a deserved leveller but it was a soft goal from the Matlock viewpoint. A long throw from the left was left by Oscar Radford and the substitute could scarcely believe his luck as he forced the ball home.
Sharriff saw a twenty yarder deflected inches wide before he acrobatically shot past Kennedy’s left hand post in fine style.
But Matlock could and almost certainly should have regained the lead on 68 minutes when Zeph Thomas first of all failed to make a telling contact with a bouncing ball which fell to Stokes whose shot certainly had the venom to beat goalkeeper Richard Knight, but unfortunately for the hosts, caught the side netting as it flashed agonizingly wide.
Five minutes later, the game was settled thanks to the second spot kick of the evening as Micky Harcourt’s clumsy challenge on ROBBINS was punished again by the substitute who drove emphatically low into the corner from twelve yards.
Both Leon Osborne and Niall Dawkins were brought on and after Robbins forced Kennedy to tip his rocket of a free kick over the bar and prevent his hat-trick, Dawkins came close to an 86th minute leveller, screwing his shot wide after an excellent run and cross by Joe Leesley.
Matlock’s star man was easy to choose. Leesley topped the ratings by a country mile and it was a pity that many of Matlock’s more experienced players could not follow his example. Too many were sadly below par, the worry of where Matlock’s goals are going to come from is still nagging away.
Atkins has a lot of hard thinking and work to do but needs the support of his players, officials and fans as he works to right the wrongs of this defeat. To lose and play well is one thing, but to be beaten by a side who works a lot harder and appears to want the result more is undoubtedly a different matter. The latter was the case on Tuesday.
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Jon Kennedy 2 Micky Harcourt 3 Joe Leesley 4 Adam Yates 5 David Haggerty 6 Oscar Radford 7 Jason Stokes (14 Niall Dawkins 79) 8 Josh Meade 9 Danny Holland (12 Leon Osborne 79) 10 Zeph Thomas 11 Liam Needham. Subs not used: 15 Alex Hewitt 16 Lavell White 17 Matty Leese
STAMFORD: 1 Richard Knight 2 Ryan Clarke 3 Ellis Myles 4 Lewis Carr 5 Richard Jones 6 Cameron Powell (14 Ryan Robbins 58) 7 Jon Challinor 8 Daniel Lawlor 9 Nabil Shariff (12 Emeka Nwadike 82) 10 Jordan Smith 11 Matthew Cotton Subs not used: 15 Shaun Richards 16 Dalton Bettles 17 David Staff
REFEREE: S Richardson (Huthwaite) ATTENDANCE: 277 BEST GLADIATOR: Joe Leesley