Matlock Town 1-1 Blyth Spartans
Matlock boss Mark Atkins and the fans had demanded an improvement after a disappointing 2-1 home defeat by Stamford, and they certainly got it against a strong Blyth outfit at the Autoworld Arena on Saturday.
A draw was just about fair in the end but in terms of chances created, the Gladiators possibly deserved the extra two points, and with a little more steadiness and luck in front of goal, their first win of the season might have materialized.
Danny Hawkins had scored for Blyth just a minute before the interval to knock a Matlock side back which had recovered spiritedly after a bright start from the visitors, but eleven minutes after the restart, Danny Holland’s fabulous header registered Matlock’s first goal from open play this season.
Changes were expected to the line up, in the end there were just they two with Oscar Radford and Zephaniah Thomas dropping to the bench and Niall Dawkins and Leon Osborne coming in for their full league debuts. Adam Yates dropped back to central defence to partner David Haggerty.
Blyth, like Town, had faltered in the week losing 3-0 at Ashton United, so both teams had points to prove.
Blyth began the better without opening up the Gladiators defence, the first shot at goal being delayed until the 19th minute when Nathan Buddle drove high and harmlessly over the bar from twenty yards.
Three minutes afterwards their skipper Robbie Dale came much closer, teasing both Micky Harcourt and Dawkins in a mesmeric run from the left with Matlock ending Jon Kennedy to beat away his shot.
That let off was the catalyst for Town to threaten as a fine cross from the left by Jason Stokes narrowly eluded both Holland and Osborne in the box. Dawkins’ low drive was then fielded by goalkeeper Peter Jeffries before inexplicably Osborne attempted to chest in an excellent Harcourt centre when he should surely have netted with a routine header.
Kennedy held a long range effort from the experienced Neal Hooks before Matlock fashioned another chance from a 41st minute corner which saw Haggerty put a free header over the bar.
But Blyth stole the lead when Liam Needham lost possession in midfield and Dan Maguire threaded an inch perfect pass through the heart of Matlock’s defence and HAWKINS slid a low shot past the advancing Kennedy.
It was a big blow for Matlock but words from Atkins saw Matlock make a positive response.
Stokes saw a fine 22 yard strike parried by Jeffries on 51 minutes before five minutes later as Matlock maintained their pressure, Harcourt hoisted in a centre from the right and HOLLAND rose high to plant a magnificent header past Jeffries.
The goalkeeper was on hand to field another Holland attempt just before the hour which was quickly followed by Stokes having another effort blocked and Josh Meade’s follow up being cleared off the line by Alex Nicholson.
Matlock now looked the more likely victors but another goal would not come despite Stokes having another effort deflected wide.
But Blyth had possibly the best chance when nine minutes from time substitute Jarrett Rivers broke clear on the left but Kennedy deservedly preserved Matlock’s point with a fine save.
It had been a much better Matlock performance. There is still work to be done with Holland needing better support in attack. Had they converted just one more chance, they would surely have stopped Blyth still being unbeaten at Matlock.
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Jon Kennedy 2 Micky Harcourt 3 Joe Leesley 4 Niall Dawkins, (15 Lavell White 65), 5 David Haggerty 6 Adam Yates 7 Jason Stokes (12 Oscar Radford 85), 8 Josh Meade 9 Danny Holland (14 Zephaniah Thomas 77) 10 Leon Osborne 11 Liam Needham Other subs: 16 Jordan Snodin 17 Matty Leese
BLYTH SPARTANS: 1 Peter Jeffries 2 Alex Nicholson 3 Ian Watson 4 Danny Parker 5 Nathan Buddle 6 Neal Hooks (15 Ryan Cummings 85) 7 Arran Wearmouth (14 Jarrett Rivers 66) 8 Ryan Hutchinson 9 Daniel Maguire 10 Daniel Hawkins 11 Robert Dale Other subs: 12 Ben Sayer 16 Paul Robinson 17 Chris Bell
REFEREE: B Lamb (Eccles) ATTENDANCE: 263 BEST GLADIATOR: Danny Holland