Matlock Town 0-1 Stamford
The need for a goalscorer to finish off the chances created was painfully emphasised as struggling Stamford sneaked a single goal victory to frustrate manager Mark Hume and the Matlock crowd on Saturday.
The Gladiators have hit a paltry six goals in nine league and cup outings at the Autoworld Arena, surely the visit of a side who have been haemorrhaging goals so far this campaign would see that record improved?
No was the answer, partly through inspired goalkeeping from Richard Knight who included a penalty save in his impressive performance, but also because Matlock’s finishing left a lot to be desired. So an opportunity was missed to record a convincing win and move onwards and upwards in the division.
Hume was forced into one change with Niall McManus missing after a family bereavement, so Laurie Wilson was recalled to the Gladiators midfield. McManus had shown signs of a return to his best form in the preceding 2-2 draw at Nantwich.
Wilson was immediately involved , lifting a twenty yarder high and wide in the opening seconds, which was soon followed by Ben Algar flicking a header past the post.
Stamford’s first attack came on 14 minutes when Dan Clements failed to reach a cross from the left by Nabil Shariff, but Matlock could easily have gone in front in the 20th minute when Sam Smith planted a free header from a Craig Nelthorpe cross straight at Knight.
Stamford’s only other chance of the half came on 24 minutes, Shariff pulling his shot wide from eighteen yards when he latched on to a Harry Coates clearance.
But ten minutes later, Matlock wasted an even better opportunity as Danny Holland did everything right by nodding down a Micky Harcourt cross to Smith who went for glory from close range, but blasted his shot high over the bar when composure was needed.
Holland then scuffed a Harcourt cross wide when he should probably have burst the net open as Stamford were reprieved once again.
There was another escape for them when Coates headed a corner against the woodwork in the opening moments of the second half before Knight dived to his right to brilliantly claw away a well controlled Algar volley six minutes later.
That save had more significance when in the 57th minute TOM McGOWAN stabbed home from six yards after Matlock failed to clear a corner, and the shock result started to look on the cards.
That possibility increased when Holland failed from the penalty spot in the very next minute. Smith attacked down the left and was sent sprawling by Ellis Myles, but Knight dived to his left to keep out a Holland shot that lacked pace and direction.
Joel Purkiss and Jordan Deacey were sent on in place of Smith and Nelthorpe almost immediately, Purkiss soon testing Knight with a twenty five yarder which was again competently and confidently dealt with.
With Matlock throwing players forward in search of a leveller, they were vulnerable to counter attacks, one nearly proving costly as George Willis was quick to close down and save from Clements.
But then it was normal service resumed as Knight made another brilliant save, flinging himself to his left to scoop away an Adam Yates header which might have brought an 83rd minute equaliser for the hosts.
Then three minutes later from another corner the ball dropped to Ted Cribley who sliced wide from fifteen yards as he shot through a ruck of defenders, before with time running out, a Harcourt header from a free kick on the left flew over the bar.
So Matlock had actually brought about their own downfall through extreme generosity in front of goal in a game they would have hoped to have won comfortably.
But games will not be won with comfort until a goalscorer is found, finding him though is easier said than done.
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 George Willis 2 Micky Harcourt 3 Craig Nelthorpe (16 Jordan Deacey 59), 4 Laurie Wilson 5 Adam Yates 6 Harry Coates 7 Ted Cribley 8 Liam Needham 9 Sam Smith (15 Joel Purkiss 59) 10 Danny Holland 11 Ben Algar Other subs: 12 Scott Maxfield 14 Nicky Travis 17 Jason Paling
STAMFORD: 1 Richard Knight 2 Ellis Myles 3 Nathan Fox 4 Roger Lee 5 Brad Gascoigne 6 Lewis Carr 7 Dan Clements 8 Tom McGowan 9 Nabil Shariff 10 Nathan Hicks 11 Shawn Richards Subs: 12 Dominic McGarr 14 Will Rawdon 15 Will Ree
REFEREE: C Ward (Blyth, Notts) ATTENDANCE: 336 Best Gladiator: Laurie Wilson