Blyth Spartans 1-0 Matlock Town
Matlock were unfortunate not to return home with a point from the league leaders following a greatly improved display.
They lost to an equally unfortunate goal from Nathan Buddle in the 63rd minute, the central defender’s header dropping into the net from a Damon Mullen free kick which goalkeeper George Willis came out to try and claim but slipped. Willis needed treatment suggesting an injury but was able to continue, Blyth scoring in a moment which works for a side at the top of the table and works against a side struggling for form.
So this was Matlock’s fourth successive defeat but the hardy few fans who journeyed to Croft Park were content with the effort and commitment agreeing their side deserved more.
By the time Blyth scored, the hosts had been reduced to ten men as striker Dan Maguire was sent off after 50 minutes for a stray high elbow on Tom Burgin who had to be replaced shortly afterwards, but the Blyth crowd, sensing an injustice that was not there, helped to see their side home to a much needed win after two successive league defeats of their own and with Darlington breathing down their necks at the summit.
Matlock included two debutants in their squad, giving a start to striker Jordan Ball signed from Gresley on Thursday night, and putting former Highfields School pupil Ashley Bartle on the bench. Laurie Wilson partnered Tom Burgin in central defence with Adam Yates operating at left back with Craig Nelthorpe pushed into midfield.
The Gladiators made a promising start being on the front foot, Nelthorpe’s shot dropping narrowly wide in the opening minute. Then Niall McManus was in behind the Spartans defence down the left but wasted a fine opening with a wildly overhit centre.
Blyth responded as Michael Richardson shot well wide and when their talismatic skipper Robbie Dale beat three players in a mazy run, Maguire miskicked at the vital moment.
Nelthorpe again went close when goalkeeper Adam McHugh could only palm away a Wilson corner, Nelthorpe powerfully returning the ball wit interest but narrowly wide. Then on 19 minutes only a fine save from McHugh from a Wilson strike after he had won the initial header from a Nelthorpe corner prevented Matlock from going in front.
Willis comfortably gathered a Dale free kick before on 36 minutes he made a great save from Dale who followed in his free kick after a push by Wilson.
Ball was working hard in attack for the Gladiators and he nearly had his reward in the 43rd minute as McHugh pushed out his shot in what had been a highly satisfactory opening half for Matlock, with a goal being only the lacking feature.
The sending off saw the game turn into a feisty affair as referee Lindsey Robinson struggled to maintain control, some decisions harshly going against Matlock with the home support baying for blood. In a perverse way, the sending off was the worst thing that could have happened for Matlock.
Blyth were defending stoutly and restricted Matlock’s openings until the final ten minutes when they could easily have snatched what would have been a deserved share of the spoils.
Substitute Charlie Dawes drove a couple of feet wide with a twenty yarder before fellow substitiute Joel Purkiss watched disbelievingly as McHugh, partially unsighted, got down to tip away a low strike bound for the bottom corner. Purkiss also drove wildly over the bar and Liam Needham had two successive strikes superbly blocked before Adam Yates nodded a corner wide at the back post.
So after the Darlington debacle, this was a good response in a difficult fixture and Matlock need to continue in the same vein in the forthcoming matches.
BLYTH SPARTANS: 1 Adam McHugh 2 Alex Nicholson 3 Jordan Watson 4 Nathan Buddle 5 Dylan Morse 6 Sean Reid 7 Arran Wearmouth (15 Andrew Cartwright 78) 8 Damon Mullen 9 Daniel Maguire 10 Michael Richardson 11 Robbie Dale Other subs: 12 Wilson Kneeshaw 14 Danny Parker 16 Neal Hooks 17 Paul Robinson
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 George Willis 2 Micky Harcourt 3 Craig Nelthorpe 4 Laurie Wilson (14 Charlie Dawes 75), 5 Adam Yates 6 Tom Burgin (15 Jason Paling 56) 7 Ted Cribley 8 Liam Needham 9 Jordan Ball 10 Danny Holland (12 Joel Purkiss 64) 11 Niall McManus Other subs: 16 Liam Gaughan 17 Ashley Bartle
REFEREE:MLindsey Robinson ATTENDANCE: 567 BEST GLADIATOR: Craig Nelthorpe