Matlock Town 0-2 Blyth Spartans
Saturday’s final home game of the season against title chasing Blyth Spartans proved to be one match too much for a tired Matlock who had played important games on the previous Saturday, Tuesday and Thursday.
In contrast the visitors had enjoyed a free week leading up to the clash of the Gladiators and the Spartans which never ignited with goalscoring chances being ffew and far between for both sides.
The difference was two brilliant strikes from distance from Alex Reid in the first half and Damon Mullen after the break with Matlock lacking both the energy and the intuition to fashion a response.
It led to a good day for the huge Spartans travelling army,most of who were clad in Hawaiian shirts to make for a carnival atmosphere, and swelling the gate to an impressive 586.
Matlock went into the game knowing their place in the top flight had been assured in a four match unbeaten run, Blyth on the other hand, knew that nothing else but a victory was required to keep pace with Darlington at the summit.
With Darlington’s game being delayed until Sunday, Blyth had a chance to regain the leadership for twenty four hours at least.
Their nerves were settled after just six minutes when REID collected possession to riflr a wonderful twenty five yard strike past the despairing dive and hand of George Willis. It would make an already tough ask for Matlock even more demanding.
Matlock responded as a forceful run from Charlie Dawes produced a corner, and while the Gladiators thrashed Blyth in the corner count by seven to one, this like nearly all of them, produced little end product.
Another corner was forced when Craig Nelthorpe’s shot was headed behind by Dillon Morse before Joel Purkiss tried his luck from distance but his shot was comfortably off target.. Blyth goalkeeper Adam McHugh enjoyed a quiet afternoon while Willis, apart from picking the ball out of the net twice, was equally comfortable.
Matlock brought on Niall McManus at half time but even he, generally a livewire going forward, struggled to make any impact due to heavy legs.
Jordan Ball poked wide from a near post corner in the 53rd minute but four minutes later the game was effectively over when MULLEN got the better of Ted Cribley in midfield to stride a couple of steps forward and smash a vicious shot into the top corner.
The rest of the game was played out at a quiet tempo with the best entertainment being provided by the wit and humour of the visiting fans who were an absolute credit to their club.
Adam Yates placed a header wide and at the other end produced a fine challenge on Dan Maguire with the Spartans number nine about to pull the trigger. The mercurial Robbie Dale was at least kept quiet, Blyth’s star player being limited to a free kick whipped over the bar and another similar strike being gathered by Willis.
But the game never threatened to reach anywhere near the heights of Matlock’s thrilling 4-2 FA Trophy win against Blyth last November. It was typical end of season fare.
“Tiredness was a factor” Matlock boss Mark Hume admitted afterwards. “But I can’t fault the lads for effort after playing on Saturday, Tuesday and Thursday. That and the two great goals obviously were the difference.”
Blyth boss Tom Wade remained unsure whether his side could pip Darlington to the title.
“We have to keep going, this is a fantastic league and we’ve got to make a fight of it. Darlington have four games in six days now. Today we’ve created a club record with sixteen away wins so that’s something to be proud of. I’d also like to thank Matlock who are a great club for the way they’ve looked after us and our fans today.”
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 George Willis 2 Jason Paling 3 Ben Algar 4 Craig Nelthorpe 5 Adam Yates 6 Micky Harcourt 7 Ted Cribley 8 Liam Needham 9 Joel Purkiss (15 Jack Siddall 69) 10 Jordan Ball (12 Danny Holland 69) 11 Charlie Dawes (16 Niall McManus 46) Other subs: 14 Liam Gaughan 17 Ashley Bartle
BLYTH SPARTANS: 1 Adam McHugh 2 Andrew Cartwright 3 Jordan Watson 4 Nathan Buddle (16 Danny Parker 54) 5 Dillon Morse 6 Damon Mullen 7 Aaron Wearmouth (15 Michael Richardson 27) 8 Sean Reid 9 Daniel Maguire (14 Wilson Kneeshaw 77) 10 Matyhew Wade 11 Robbie Dale Other subs: 12 Alex Nicholson 17 Paul Robinson
REFEREE: James Bell (Sheffield) ATTENDANCE: 586 BEST GLADIATOR: Adam Yates