MATLOCK TOWN 2-0 MICKLEOVER SPORTS
Although Tuesday night’s performance was not altogether convincing, Matlock still had enough to gain revenge for a 2-0 defeat by Sports in September and keep the Derby side in relegation trouble.
Goals in each half from Niall McManus and Laurie Wilson made for an unhappy return for former Matlock favourites Craig Hopkins and Glenn Kirkwood as Sports’ joint bosses brought their side to one of their old haunts. They could not capitalise on making much the better start as the Gladiators were on the receiving end of some speedy attacks during the opening twenty minutes.
But Matlock’s defence in which the fit again Tom Burgin and Laurie Wilson were outstanding repelled that threat, giving their team a platform from which to build their victory after successive defeats at Darlington and Marine.
Burgin was one of two changes made by boss Mark Hume with Adam Yates moving to full back in place of the injured Micky Harcourt. Club captain Danny Holland was also included at Craig Nelthorpe’s expense as Ben Algar filled the left back slot.
Sports 3-5-2 line up initially caused Matlock headaches and Sheffield United loanee Jerome Slew was a handful on the left flank. A penetrating run in the 8th minute saw him cut through from deep far too easily for Hume and the home fans’ liking, his well struck drive whistling narrowly past a post into the sidenetting.
Yates did just enough to force Slew to fire wide again five minutes later before Slew turned provider, slipping a neat short pass to Reece Hales whose powerful low strike was well blocked by George Willis.
So it was against the run of the early play when Matlock took a 17th minute lead, a free kick being played swiftly forward on the right, finding McMANUS in the penalty box, the Londoner smashing a fierce low shot past goalkeeper Josh Barnes for his 11th goal of the season.
Matlock settled to their task more with the boost of a goal and Joel Purkiss tried his luck from distance, forcing Barnes to save low to his left before shooting across the face of the goal. Then McManus showed tricky footwork to bamboozle the Sports defence and force a corner from which Burgin nodded wide.
Liam Needham arrived late to lift an awkwardly bouncing cross over the bar from six yards in the opening moments of the second period, Mickleover responding with Willis holding a Dales strike after a neat interchange with Hales.
Burgin nodded a flicked on Wilson corner straight at Barnes before with the veteran John McGrath pulling the strings in midfield, the visitors pushed the hosts back but made little headway through no nonsense Matlock defending.
Matlock could have done with this resolve in the final minutes at Marine. Their reward this time though came from yet another LAURIE WILSON special in the 69th minute.
Battering ram Holland was fouled from behind some twenty five yards from goal, and with free kicks becoming his forte, Wilson again delivered the goods, curling a belter past Barnes’ despairing dive for his 9th goal in Town colours.
Victory was now confirmed and substitute Nelthorpe’s threatening run and pass to Purkiss might have made it three, but Purkiss delayed his shot too long allowing Jack Broadhead to block.
Two free kicks, one lifted too high by Sam Finlaw and another well held by Willis were all Sports could muster as despite their football being pleasing on the eye,the lack of a goalscorer stood out like the proverbial sore thumb.
The clean sheet was especially pleasing for the Gladiators in a solid performance.
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 George Willis 2 Adam Yates 3 Ben Algar 4 Laurie Wilson 5 Tom Burgin 6 Nicky Travis 7 Ted Cribley 8 Liam Needham 9 Joel Purkiss (12 Charlie Dawes 89) 10 Danny Holland ( 14 Craig Nelthorpe 74) 11 Niall McManus. Other subs: 15 Jack Siddall 16 Scott Maxfield 17 Ryan Pugh
MICKLEOVER SPORTS: 1 Josh Barnes 2 Jake Bennett 3 Jerome Slew (15 Jordan Edridge 85) 4 Jack Broadhead 5 Dominic McGirr 6 Nico De Gerilamo 7 Andy Dales 8 Sam Finlaw (14 Kurtis Morley 74) 9 Reece Hales (12 Simeon Oshoboke 84) 10 John McGrath 11 Jake Green Other subs: 16 Murtaza Hardary 17 Jack Tolley
REFEREE: D Plowright (Clipstone) ATTENDANCE: 282 BEST GLADIATOR: Niall McManus