Marine 0-2 Matlock Town
Two set piece goals gave Matlock another priceless victory on Merseyside on Saturday, their fourth on the trot and a quick league double over the Mariners.
A Danny Holland penalty on the stroke of half time was added to by a beautifully executed Otis Khan fee kick eight minutes into the second half, to sink the Gladiators’ relegation rivals, who now look as if they might need snookers to preserve their Evo-Stik NPL Premier Division status.
Town won comfortably in the end and would probably have expected a more severe test than the one this Marine side, a pale shadow of former Mariners outfits, provided them with. The hosts were booed off at the end, a measure of the comfort zone Matlock had over them.
Mark Hume kept an unchanged starting line up from the one which had beaten Belper in midweek. After a troublesome journey due to motorway delays, the Gladiators only arrived at the Arriva Stadium forty minutes before kick off, but immediately sought to run off any weariness by immediately going on the attack, with Muhammed Sabo glancing a Ted Cribley corner harmlessly wide in the 3rd minute.
Marine showed flashes of promise and Jon Kennedy did well to hold a well struck effort from Carl Peers in the 6th minute, this coming after his original strike after a corner had been charged down.
But the wet and windy conditions made for a spluttering start from both teams with Marine at this point probably the slightly more impressive.
Matlock though held them at arms length. The hosts most potent striker in recent matches, Tom Peers, lifted a shot high and not so handsomely over the bar from distance on 17 minutes before Kennedy held another Carl Peers shot.
Town’s response was for Liam Needham to make goalkeeper Matthew Cooper require two attempts to hold his low strike and then after Micky Harcourt had done well to block a Marine free kick at the expense of a corner, the Gladiators began to turn the screw.
Khan and Niall McManus were particularly prominent as Matlock’s pressure quickly intensified, the crescendo coming with the opening goal seconds before the interval.
Cooper needed two attempts again to keep out the first of three McManus opportunities in four minutes. The midfielder’s second chance saw Andy Nicholas do well to block a goal bound shot and from the third he turned quickly to fire narrowly wide.
McManus was then fouled a couple of yards outside the box with Harcourt’s fiercely struck free kick swerving a foot too high but a goal was certainly on the cards and it came thanks to direct running from Khan.
The soon to be Pakistani international teased home skipper Joel Bembo-Leta, and the former Colwyn Bay defender handled, the scene being set for HOLLAND to confidently stroke in the spot kick for his 99th Matlock goal.
That was just what the doctor ordered as far as Matlock were concerned but that advantage was nearly squandered in the opening twenty five seconds of the second period.
Half time substitute Lewis Codling found himself ten yards from goal with just Kennedy to beat but the Matlock goalkeeper earned his corn with a fine block to keep Matlock in front.
Marine would not create another such great opportunity. The Gladiators from then on would be efficient and businesslike, it would prove to be a professional away performance.
Oscar Radford could and should probably have netted when given a free header from a 48th minute corner, he nodded over the bar but five minutes later, Matlock’s win was confirmed.
Josh Meade was brought down five yards outside the penalty box and for the second successive match, KHAN found the net with a top quality free kick, which beat Cooper’s despairing right hand as it nestled low in the back of the net.
Julian Banton did well to block another Codling strike but there ewas more danger now of Matlock extending their lead.
Cribley found the ball stuck under his feet when well placed and a cross shot from Harcourt rebounded off a post.
Cooper denied Khan a second goal with a neat save to his right, a Liam Needham piledriver was blocked by Nicholas and a Cribley strike was deflected wide as another good day for Hume and the Gladiators followers was confirmed.
There is still plenty of hard work to be done but 17th in the table at the final whistle looks a lot more appealing than the position Matlock found themselves in a month ago.
MARINE: 1 Matthew Cooper 2 Daniel Fearnehough 3 James Short 4 Andy Nicholas 5 Joel Bembo-Leta (15 Steven Wainwright 46) 6 Liam Willis 7 Jamie Menagh 8 Carl Peers (14 James Foley 56) 9 Tom Peers 10 Lloyd Ellams 11 Karl Clair (12 Lewis Codling 46) Other subs: 16 Christian Langos 17 Sean Hessey
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Jon Kennedy 2 Micky Harcourt 3 Oscar Radford 4 Josh Meade 5 Muhammed Sabo 6 Julian Banton 7 Ted Cribley 8 Liam Needham 9 Otis Khan 10 Danny Holland 11 Niall McManus (15 Adam Yates 84) Other subs: 12 Scott Maxfield 14 Grant Black 16 Bradley Kerr 17 Corey Gregory
REFEREE: Ian Siddall (Bolton) ATTENDANCE: 313 BEST GLADIATOR: Niall McManus