Buxton 3-2 Matlock Town
Two goals ahead in twenty five minutes, Matlock looked as if they would give their fans a much needed Christmas present of three points from this A6 derby at snowy Silverlands.
But it all went wrong for the Gladiators, particularly in the second half, when a stirring Buxton fightback saw them return home with nothing and worse still, they slid into the relegation places as uncomfortably as the harrowing journey back down the snowbound A6 was for officials and fans.
In an even opening Buxton skipper Laurie Wilson drove narrowly wide from the edge of the box on 14 minutes before just a minute later Niall McManus shot fiercely at Bucks goalkeeper Arron Jameson.
But within a further sixty seconds Matlock went ahead when Buxton failed to clear effectively from a corner and when a McManus shot fell to COREY GREGORY, the striker made no mistake with a firm rising shot into the roof of the net for his third goal against the Bucks this season.
Eight minutes later Matlock had doubled their advantage, again from a corner not properly dealt with by Jameson and the Buxton rearguard, the ball finding MICKY HARCOURT six yards out who blasted gleefully home.
Jameson had to be quickly off his line to hack clear from Gregory who had broken through again but a lapse in concentration afforded the hosts a route back into the game on the half hour. Ellis Humble was booked for a foul on Liam Hardy just inside the Matlock half, and when the free kick was floated in, Greg Young headed on and HARDY scrambled the ball home to halve the deficit.
It was the catalyst for Buxton to raise their game but Matlock looked the more dangerous until the interval. Although the Gladiators did well to block successive strikes from Hardy and Craig King, it was Jameson who was the busier of the two goalkeepers. He did well to hold a header from Adam Yates as Buxton again struggled to defend a Matlock corner and on the cusp of half time Danny Holland intelligently tried to chip Jameson from the edge of the box, but the goalkeeper was alert to the danger as he backpedalled to claim the ball under the bar.
Rain had changed to snow as Buxton brought on veteran striker Mark Reed at the interval as they went for the Matlock jugular. The Gladiators were soon on the back foot and escaped twice when King struck the outside of the post and Kennedy saved superbly from Hardy.
But Matlock keep pressing the self destruct button seemingly in every game they play and when Harcourt lost possession midway in his own half on 52 minutes, the punishment was severe.
Buxton worked the ball out to HARDY on the left who then provided a wonderful finish that the diving Kennedy did his level best to reach, but in all honesty, had little hope of keeping out, the floated finish into the far corner comprehensively beating the Matlock number one to his left.
Then came a spate of bookings as the game reached boiling point. Harcourt, for a poor challenge on Hardy which prompted a childish response from Buxton’s Wilson who probably should have bee sent off for grabbing Harcourt by the throat.Hardy soon followed for a late challenge on McManus which effected the Matlock midfielder’s mobility and later forced him off.
Matlock’s problem now was their failure to retain possession for long enough to prevent the wave of Buxton attacks but justifiable penalty appeals were turned down when Young pushed Holland in the back as he prepared to shoot.
The Gladiators survived a tremendous scramble in their penalty box before Gregory, who had an impressive game for Town, might have regained the lead for Matlock. He ran clear but shot far too early, admitting afterwards he was possibly caught in two minds whether to lob Jameson or go for power. In the end it was a comfortable save for Jameson.
Liam Needham replaced Joe Leesley midway through the half, the Gladiators club skipper appearing for the first time in nearly three months. But Buxton always looked the more likely scorers of a decisive fifth goal and it came with a quarter of an hour remaining.
The Bucks forced corner after corner although the one from which the winner was scored was highly controversial with Matlock claiming a goal kick. They failed though to get over their disappointment and REED, so often their nemesis in recent seasons, was at it again as he netted from close range after yet another scramble.
The Buxton defence was far from secure, but Matlock could not put enough pressure on to breach it in the closing stages. Young thought he had headed in a fourth for the Bucks but he had clearly fouled Kennedy who was left hobbling for the remaining minutes of the contest.
It had been a much improved performance from the one served up against Trafford, but really Matlock had probably hit rock bottom then. They showed plenty of fight and determination and after struggling for goals, they have now hit two in each of the last three matches. But defensive naivety is now a problem, and although they looked better going forward in the first half at least, the quality of ball to Holland and Gregory in the second half saw the strikers feeding off scraps.
Victories are now becoming a must for Matlock, it does not matter how they come, a few scrappy 1-0’s would go down a treat!
BUXTON: 1 Arron Jameson 2 Alex Byrne 3 Jamie Green 4 Laurie Wilson 5 Ash Palmer 6 Greg Young 7 Alastair Taylor (14 Mark Reed 46) 8 Neil Stevens 9 Shaun Tuton 10 Liam Hardy (12 Derek Niven 78) 11 Craig King Other subs: 15 Jonathan Williams 16 Shamari Doyle 17 Tim Ryan
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Jon Kennedy 2 Micky Harcourt 3 Joe Leesley (16 Liam Needham 66) 4 Adam Yates 5 Ellis Humble (17 Charlie Dawes 76) 6 Oscar Radford 7 Niall McManus (12 Josh Meade 81) 8 James Ashmore 9 Danny Holland 10 Corey Gregory 11 Phil Roe Other subs: 14 Lawrence Gorman 15 Andre Johnson
REFEREE: M Astley (Denton) ATTENDANCE: 341 BEST GLADIATOR: Corey Gregory