BARWELL 1-3 MATLOCK TOWN
If ever the Gladiators and their fans needed an almost perfect performance and more importantly three precious points, then Easter Saturday was the day.
And Mark Hume’s men came up trumps with the cards firmly on the table. Another defeat and another error laden performance would have them deep in relegation trouble.
That scenario never looked likely in a determined and both skillful performance with the 3-1 margin actually flattering the hosts who still had faint hopes of a play off spot before kick off. The win gave Matlock their third league double of the campaign with Barwell having lost by the same scoreline at the Autoworld Arena back in August.
Matlock were a joy to watch, they scored three excellent goals through Danny Holland, Otis Khan and Jamie McDonagh, the last one from McDonagh being a candidate for goal of the season.
Hume made two changes from the side beaten by Curzon Ashton seven days earlier, most notably including Adam Yates in central defence alongside Julian Banton and bringing back Holland in attack with Muhammed Sabo and Josh Meade being omitted.
Barwell are a tall physical side and Matlock firstly had to win the initial battle and not concede, which they did effectively with both Yates and Banton outstanding.
Malcolm Melvin knocked a right wing cross too high in the 3rd minute before Jon Kennedy comfortably he lad a long range blast from Nigel Julien.
It was the Gladiators though who created the first clear cut opening on 9 minutes when Ted Cribley won a free kick which was played forward for Holland who scuffed his shot in a one on one with goalkeeper Liam Castle who pushed the ball aside.
That opportunity though acted as a springboard for Matlock to dominate proceedings with McDonagh having a powerful strike well blocked by Danny Jenno and when Cribley played Khan in, the ball bobbled awkwardly and the chance was lost.
But Khan would play a major role in Town’s opening goal in the 28th minute as he weaved his way in from the right to shoot low towards the opposite corner of the net. Castle could only parry the ball to the waiting HOLLAND who rolled in the rebound.
Castle parried another effort, this time from McDonagh and struck lucky with the ball running in his favour before the one scary moment for Matlock came on 37 minutes.
Anthony Carney’s cross to the back post was met by Dominic Brennan but Kennedy was alert to the danger, superbly tipping Brennan’s header over the bar.
That proved to be a pivotal moment as Matlock further increased the tempo and they doubled their lead in the 44th minute.
A neat controlled build up which was started by McDonagh who was deployed wide on the left, saw possession passed on to Niall McManus whose accurate low cross was swept home by KHAN from eight yards.
Two could quite conceivably have been four by half time as an impudent flick off his standing foot by McDonagh cannoned back off the bar and in another raid, Oscar Radford had two goal bound strikes heroically blocked and Holland had a shot cleared off the line.
Matlock needed to carry on the good work into the second half and the insurance of a third goal gave them full command on 53 minutes.
A corner was cleared as far as McDONAGH thirty yards out who hit an instant first time waist high volley just inside the post which nearly burst the net and left a bemused Castle wondering just what had occurred. He could scarcely have seen the ball given the ferocity of the shot!
Sensing an embarrassing hammering, Barwell responded positively and pulled a goal back within three minutes as BRENNAN turned to fire past Kennedy from twelve yards but despite some route one pressure, the Matlock goal never came under serious threat.
On the break Town continued to look dangerous. A Micky Harcourt piledriver flew inches wide and Holland lifted a great chance over the bar when McDonagh seized upon a sliced Castle clearance to feed his skipper.
Results elsewhere also aided Matlock’s survival fight and Matlock will need to recognise now that the bar has been set with this fine performance. The battle has not been won yet. Fans will be wondering why though, this kind of performance could not have been produced a couple of weeks earlier, everyone would have been breathing a great deal easier.
There were fine performances all over the pitch, so choosing a star player is tremendously difficult, but for impudence, hard work and his world class goal, Jamie McDonagh gets the vote.
BARWELL: 1 Liam Castle 2 Declan Towers 3 Eddie Nisevic 4 Danny Jenno 5 Jamie Hood 6 Nigel Julian 7 Alex Tomkinson 8 Malcolm Melvin (14 Kieron Brehon 58) 9 Dominic Brennan 10 Jamie Towers 11 Anthony Carney (15 Danny Gaunt 66) Other subs: 12 Richard Lavery 16 Scott Lower 17 Guy Hadland
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Jon Kennedy 2 Micky Harcourt 3 Oscar Radford 4 Ted Cribley 5 Adam Yates 6 Julian Banton 7 Otis Khan 8 Liam Needham (15 Nicky Travis 51) 9 Jamie McDonagh 10 Danny Holland (16 Muhammed Sabo 88) 11 Niall McManus (17 Liam Gaughan 90) Other subs: 12 Scott Maxfield 14 Grant Black
REFEREE: A Fox (Coventry) ATTENDANCE: 207 BEST GLADIATOR: Jamie McDonagh