Halesowen Town 4-3 Matlock Town
“Can we play you every week?” will be the call from Halesowen who hit four goals against the Gladiators for the third time this season.
This defeat for Matlock could be the most damaging of the lot.
How many times are Matlock going to press the self destruct button which is making relegation seem to be a distinct probability? They did it again, turning a winning position at half time into a dismal defeat and against ten men at that!
The match seemed to have tilted firmly Matlock’s way when with Halesowen a goal to the good on 35 minutes, home striker Aaron Daniels was sent off for an off the ball elbow on Adam Yates which left Yates flat on the turf. Referee Martin Dexter had no hesitation in brandishing the red card once he had consulted with assistant Dave Bullen who had seen the incident.
Then Matlock scored two in three minutes shortly before the interval. The game was theirs to win.
But they lost their way badly in the second period as gritty Halesowen looked the better side even with a man short. Character was needed from Matlock, as well as concentration, a degree of common sense and leadership. They showed very little of any, and with a run of one solitary point out of the last twenty four on offer, joint bosses Dave Rushbury and Martin Foster must be worried about their positions.
Matlock gave a debut to central defender Muhammed Sabo, brought in from Goole on Friday. It would not be a good afternoon for the new man whose 90th minute own goal ultimately handed the points to Halesowen.
It was the hosts who began the brightest with Aaron Griffiths’ shot striking a defender to produce a second quick corner. It was from a flag kick, actually mishit, that Halesowen went in front when on five minutes, skipper JOE HULL drove unchallenged into the roof of the net.
It was 16 minutes before Matlock threatened when a cross from the left by Liam Needham had goalkeeper Matthew Sergeant backpedalling but landed on the top of the net.
But Matlock improved and might have been level on the half hour when neat play between striking duo Joe Leesley and Corey Gregory saw Phil Roe shoot narrowly beyond the far post from the left.
Then came the sending off and then two quick fire James Ashmore goals to give Matlock their interval lead.
The first was a contender for goal of the season, a thunderbolt from twenty five yards directly into the top corner. Then in stoppage time Sergeant tangled with Leesley to concede a spot kick which was calmly tucked away by Ashmore.
So everything was pointing to a Matlock win, surely they would not throw away this gilt edged chance?
They did, finding themselves back in arrears by the 58th minute. The equalizer saw Matlock completely asleep when Halesowen took a free kick quickly with a simple pass through the Gladiators defence which BEN HASELEY gleefully finished off. Again, schoolboy defending and a lack of responsibility on the pitch.
Then with the hosts with their tails up looking as if they had the extra man, GRIFFITHS drove from the edge of the box, the ball taking a deflection en route to the net past Jon Kennedy.
So Matlock had it all to do again. For the neutral it was a great game but Matlock followers would not share this sentiment. Points are what matters, however they are gained.
The arrival of Jason Stokes was a positive move and again he looked lively, his pace and movement boosting the Matlock attack.
Sabo stretched to head a Stokes cross over the bar as Matlock again knocked on the Halesowen defensive door. But Halesowen were also a threat at the other end and a free kick from Aaron Forde flashed narrowly wide.
Salvation looked to have arrived for Matlock with five minutes left as Needham’s inch perfect cross from the left was nodded in at the far post by the unmarked STOKES.
Both teams went for the winner but it was Halesowen who got it when after a corner was headed on, Curtis Tilt’s shot was travelling wide before it hit SABO and changed route to find the net.
It was a cruel way to lose but in reality Matlock only have themselves to blame. The fat lady is clearing her throat and doing rehearsals in preparation for what looks probable relegation for the Gladiators.
Can they save themselves? Of course they can, but they need to stop gifting the opposition points on a plate. They need to battle. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Matlock need to be tough, they need to show spirit and not having won a league game since mid November, they need to learn how to win.
A great chance to alter things was squandered on Saturday. They cannot allow any more opportunities to pass them by.
HALESOWEN TOWN: 1 Matthew Sergeant 2 Kristian Green 3 Aaron Griffiths 4 Aaron Forde 5 Joe Hull 6 Curtis Tilt 7 Asa Charlton 8 Thomas Tonks 9 Aaron Daniels 10 Ben Haseley (14 Robert Thompson-Brown 73) 11 Daniel Bragoli (15 Elliott Turner 46) Other subs: 12 Joel Kettle 16 Iyseden Christie 17 Samuel Pearson
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Jon Kennedy 2 Ellis Humble (14 Danny Holland 79) 3 Oscar Radford (12 Jason Stokes 61) 4 Liam Needham 5 Muhammed Sabo 6 Adam Yates 7 Micky Harcourt 8 James Ashmore 9 Joe Leesley 10 Corey Gregory 11 Phil Roe Other sub: 15 Martin Foster
REFEREE: Martin Dexter (Leicester) ATTENDANCE: 375 BEST GLADIATOR: James Ashmore