Matlock Town 1-0 Ashton United
Danny Holland’s 19th minute header clinched a vital first win in eight league and cup games over a side who have often caused the Gladiators problems in the past.
Indeed, the hosts had to battle hard for their win on Saturday as the Robins monopolised possession in the second half, but conversely it was Matlock who looked like adding to their tally.
For all of their second half possession, Ashton failed to seriously trouble George Willis in the home goal, the nearest they came was with two minutes left when substitiute Aaron Burns clipped the outside of the post with two minutes remaining.
The chief reason for this was the immense displays from Micky Harcourt and Adam Yates at the heart of the Gladiators defence. They won tackle after tackle, header after header, they were organised and strong, it wasn’t pretty sometimes, but it was effective, and qualities were displayed on Saturday that had been missing during the recent barren run.
Matlock showed their intent from the start with Holland shooting too high from an intelligent knock down from Sam Smith, making his home debut, inside the opening minute.
Ashton struck the woodwork on 8 minutes when a long throw from Will Hanning on the right was met by the stretching Martin Pilkington who diverted the ball against the crossbar.
But Matlock responded swiftly and following a neat build up in which Ted Cribley released Niall McManus, the latter shot tamely at goalkeeper Paul Phillips.
Soon afterwards Holland tried his luck from thirty five yards with Phillips being equal to the task but HOLLAND would be celebrating when Ben Algar swung in a delightful ball from the left and the Matlock skipper was unmarked as he flicked his header emphatically beyond Phillips.
In between Holland and Laurie Wilson saw shots charged down and Jason Paling drove wide from a neat chest down by Smith who was proving to be an efficient target man.
Willis did well to keep out a strike from Dale Johnson as Ashton sought a response before a fabulous challenge by Yates denied Pilkington which led to a quick counter attack earning Matlock a corner from which Smith nodded wide.
Smith though, should have doubled Town’s lead on 37 minutes, somehow diverting a McManus cross against the post from just a yard out. It was an amazing let off for the visitors, and from the Matlock viewpoint, thankfully they did not profit from it.
A swerving twenty yarder from Joe Melia which flew wide brought the half to a close and from that point onwards, it was mostly Ashton trying to prise open the Matlock defensive door, but finding it well and truly locked.
Joel Purkiss nearly made an instant impact after replacing Holland in the 70th minute. With his first touch he cracked in a powerful half volley which was brilliantly saved by Phillips diving to his right.
Purkiss then snatched at a 76th minute opportunity allowing Phillips a much easier save and a penetrating run down the right from fellow substitute Jordan Deacey might have led to that all important second goal but there was nobody on hand to convert his low inviting cross.
After Burns struck the post, Matty Chadwick headed off target as Matlock stayed strong and the final whistle saw the team leave to a standing ovation for a job well done but hard earned.
Ashton will feel they should have had more for their dominance of the possession after the break but on the day they came up against a Matlock side intent on correcting the wrongs from their bad set of September results.
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 George Willis 2 Jason Paling 3 Ben Algar 4 Laurie Wilson 5 Adam Yates 6 Micky Harcourt 7 Ted Cribley (14 Jordan Deacey 75) 8 Liam Needham 9 Sam Smith 10 Danny Holland (16 Joel Purkiss 70) 11 Niall McManus Other subs: 12 Scott Maxfield 15 Harry Coates 17 Liam Gaughan
ASHTON UNITED: 1 Paul Phillips 2 Cavell Coo 3 Greg Pearson 4 Jason Gorton 5 Stephen Mason 6 Will Hanning 7 Harry Winter (15 Adam Morning 66) 8 Gary Gee 9 Martin Pilkington (12 Aaron Burns 55) 10 Dale Johnson 11 Joel Melia (16 Matty Chadwick 55) Other subs: 14 Jeff King 17 Chris Sutherland