Matlock Town 3-0 Witton Albion
If ever Matlock needed a win then Saturday was it in this crucial relegation six pointer.
Defeat for the hosts was unthinkable, probably fatal with fifth bottom Albion seven points ahead of Town but having played a game more, prior to kick off.
So for Matlock to not only get the desired result but to finish playing with a swagger, speaks volumes for the work new boss Mark Hume and his staff must have put in during the week.
Hume made two changes with Oscar Radford being recalled in defence and Niall McManus starting in midfield, Grant Black and Jason Stokes dropping out from the team beaten by Ashton United seven days earlier. Striker Bradley Kerr, signed from Ossett Town was on the bench.
Nerves would obviously play a huge part in a game of this magnitude, the first goal would be absolutely vital.
Matlock nearly got it on five minutes when Danny Holland nodded towards goal but Sam Barnes headed off the line. A chance then fell to Witton four minutes later when Alex Titchener ran on to a long pass but could only fire at former Albion keeper Jon Kennedy.
The deadlock should have been broken after a quarter of an hour when Holland brought the ball down sweetly and with just goalkeeper Andrew Robertson to beat, he drove wide from eight yards, the ball shaving the outside of the post.
Thankfully from the Matlock viewpoint, they would not rue that miss. As the half wore on Matlock built up a head of steam and began to dominate. Julian Banton nodded wide from a free kick and as the pressure built both Holland and Liam Needham had efforts charged down before Radford headed wide when he seemed certain to score.
But on 40 minutes Town had their reward when McManus, who again had a splendid game, made ground on the right and set up OTIS KHAN to clinically fire past Robertson. It got even better for the Gladiators as they doubled their advantage four minutes later.
Witton made a huge mess of clearing a left wing corner and MUHAMMED SABO did not need a second invitation to gatecrash his way into the scoring charts as he nearly burst the roof of the net open with a close range finish.
So Matlock now had a real solid platform on which to earn their first league win since November 15. They did not waste their opportunity.
It was nearly three early after the resumption when Khan’s centre from the left struck Barnes forcing Robertson into a scrambling save low by his near post. Corey Gregory set up McManus who was crowded out and Holland’s astute pass sent Corey Gregory clear but Robertson advanced smartly off his line to clear the danger.
The match clincher came on 62 minutes and was deservedly netted by McMANUS who ran on to a Gregory pass with the Witton defence stretched. His initial strike was blocked by Robertson but he followed up to slide home the rebound and now surely Matlock were home and dry.
The nearest Witton came to a reply was just two minutes later as Kennedy pulled off a fantastic save to keep out a blistering drive from Danny Andrews.
Matlock though were now oozing confidence, a rare sight this season. McManus was close to a second goal when his fierce twenty yarder flew narrowly wide before Khan hooked over the bar late on.
Matlock left the field to a huge ovation, one win does not make a season but it must have done wonders for confidence in the camp. Now the test is to build on this result and performance.
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Jon Kennedy 2 Micky Harcourt 3 Oscar Radford 4 Josh Meade (16 Ellis Humble 90) 5 Muhammed Sabo 6 Julian Banton 7 Niall McManus (15 Jason Stokes 87) 8 Liam Needham 9 Corey Gregory 10 Danny Holland (14 Bradley Kerr 80) 11 Otis Khan Other subs: 12 Scott Maxfield 17 Mark Hume
WITTON ALBION: 1 Andrew Robertson 2 Anthony Gardner 3 Zac Corbett 4 Liam Goulding 5 Sam Barnes 6 Joe Shaw (16 Liam Gibson 79) 7 Jonathan Dawson (Jamie Henders 60) 8 Luke Clark (14 Michael Simpson 69) 9 Alex Titchener 10 Jamie Rainford 11 Daniel Andrews Other subs: 12 John Shaw 17 Dean Porter
REFEREE: Lisa Rashid (Birmingham) ATTENDANCE: 265 BEST GLADIATOR: Niall McManus