GRANTHAM TOWN 2-1 MATLOCK TOWN
The first game of the post Mark Atkins era had both positives and negatives for interim bosses Dave Rushbury and Martin Foster, plus the Gladiators’ followers.
Starting with the negatives, it was a fourth successive league defeat which makes their position in the relegation zone increasingly perilous. It was also a game on a ground where Matlock had previously never lost where they should have again come home with some reward but after holding a half time lead, two goals in the final twenty five minutes saw the Gingerbreads snatch maximum points, the winner being a particularly poor goal to concede.
The positives are a much improved performance, some crisp passing moves and enterprising football in the first half, a quality goal which is a commodity that has been in short supply this term and good work rate and commitment.
Most things in the Matlock garden looked rosy at the interval, and for that matter for the opening third of the second period. A double substitution by Grantham which saw the introduction of substitutes Connor Johnson and Liam Dickens turned the game in the hosts’ favour.
Matlock opted for a 3-5-2 formation which saw the recall of defender Lawrence Gorman who operated alongside Oscar Radford and Adam Yates. The five man midfield saw both Joe Leesley and Phil Roe operating in tandem alongside Corey Gregory, James Ashmore and Josh Meade. Leon Osborne was omitted altogether as Danny Holland returned as skipper with Jamie Yates as his partner.
Both sides had early opportunities with Alex Simmons firing wide for the hosts after a driving run from midfield by Michael Towey. Then Roe’s and Matlock’s luck was completely out as his low shot bounced against a post with goalkeeper Dan Haystead well beaten.
Adam Yates cleared a Phil Watt header off the line from a corner as Matlock defended generally well from set pieces before Roe threatened again with some clever footwork, his shot then being charged down at the expense of a fruitless corner.
But the breakthrough for Matlock arrived in the 29th minute as Holland found room on the left to beat Sam Purcicoe and his peach of a centre was expertly headed in by JAMIE YATES.
The goal seemed to see Matlock gain some control of the contest which attracted just 140 fans into a large open stadium in a deathly calm atmosphere, save for the occasional chant from the home fans. Jon Kennedy tipped a header from burly striker Greg Smith over the bar before on the stroke of half time Jamie Yates whipped in a vicious corner from the left which should really have given Matlock a second goal but was missed by everyone.
The second half began quietly which suited Matlock who looked in little danger until the double swap on 57 minutes. Then Adam Yates managed a second outstanding clearance to keep out Towey’s piledriver.
Matlock’s recurring problem of dropping deeper manifested itself once again and they were punished on 67 minutes when Leesley inadvertently slipped giving Purcicoe a clear break down the right. His low driven cross was turned home from six yards by TOWEY.
The Gingerbreads looked a different proposition now and Liam Dickens drove high over the bar from another Purcicoe cross.
Matlock’s attacks were now less frequent and also less menacing due to some now sloppy passing, although Deon Meikle appeared to handle a Leesley free kick but the penalty claims were turned down.
The Gladiators conceded while down to ten men for the third time this season in the 77th minute. Leesley had received treatment for a leg injury and in hindsight he should have been replaced. But while he was awaiting his return to the field, CONNOR JOHNSON poked home a left wing corner and in the next minute Leesley eventually left the battle as forward Sam Robinson was given his chance.
Although Meade drove wide after a Robinson strike had been blocked, Matlock’s late rally offered little and it was Grantham who might have netted again when Jordan Hempenstall was through after Radford stretched and missed reaching a through pass. But Kennedy saved with his legs and Matlock had to reflect that a chance to end their barren run had slipped away from them.
GRANTHAM TOWN: 1 Dan Haystead 2 Sam Purcicoe 3 Scott Matthews 4 Deon Meikle 5 Phil Watt 6 Laurie Wilson 7 Rhys Lewis ( 15 Connor Johnson 58) 8 Michael Towey 9 Jordan Hempenstall 10 Greg Smith (16 Liam Dickens 58) 11 Alex Simmons Other subs: 12 Tom Bachelor 14 Will Rawden 17 Jake Turner
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Jon Kennedy 2 Josh Meade 3 Joe Leesley (15 Sam Robinson 78) 4 Lawrence Gorman (14 Matty Andrews 86) 5 Adam Yates 6 Oscar Radford 7 Corey Gregory 8 James Ashmore 9 Danny Holland 10 Jamie Yates 11 Phil Roe Other subs: 12 Niall McManus 16 Alex Hewitt
REFEREE: Chris Ward (Worksop) ATTENDANCE: 140 BEST GLADIATOR: Adam Yates