Matlock Town 1-1 Skelmersdale United
Matlock’s opening home league game of the season ended with management, players and fans alike feeling frustrated.
The Gladiators never even reached the height of mediocrity in a scrappy first half which ended with them trailing to Daniel Burns’ strike in the 27th minute.
It was painfully obvious that joint bosses Glenn Kirkwood and Craig Hopkins had made their feelings known during the interval. Matlock were back out for battle six minutes before their opponents and the officials and went on to almost exclusively dominate the second half. Skelmersdale had to play the final thirty three minutes with only ten men after midfielder Benito Lowe was sent off for kicking out at Laurie Wilson.
Two minutes later Wilson had Matlock level but the hosts failed to make their extra man count with some wayward shooting and a lack of guile and patience and so had to settle for their second draw of the season.
Ted Cribley replaced Jamie Yates in the one change to the starting line up after the opening day stalemate at Corby, but Michael Williams, a midfielder who can also operate as a striker, was on the bench following his move from troubled Ilkeston earlier in the day.
In a scrappy start there was little to enthuse the crowd with goalmouth action being at a premium. Cribley volleyed high over the Town End Stand from distance while soon afterwards Chris Almond sliced too high for Skem. Matlock were enjoying most of the play but there was early frustration as they were caught offside three times in the opening thirteen minutes and ten times in all during the opening half.
A more promising move saw visiting captain Rob Bodie scramble a low Jake Green cross over his own bar before Niall McManus drove yards wide following a cross by Anthony Griffiths-Junior from the right. But composure and thought were lacking in Matlock’s display and their task became more difficult when Skelmersdale broke to take the lead.
Dwayne Wiley allowed a crossfield pass to sneak under his foot and BURNS on the right had a clear path to goal, keeping calm to slide a low angled effort past the exposed Arron Jameson.
A strongly hit drive from Wiley was blocked, a Wilson free kick beat everyone as it whistled across the box at head height and the Matlock captain then ended a more promising break by volleying too high.
Williams was soon making his debut, replacing Green and there was an instant Matlock improvement. Within three minutes the newest signing had the sniff of goal as he broke down the inside left channel only to be body checked by goalkeeper Martin Fearon who had raced desperately out of his penalty box.
Fearon escaped with a yellow card which was correct despite the home crowd’s protests with the awkwardly bouncing ball plus a covering defender on hand. Wilson’s free kick was charged down, but Matlock now broke down the Skem defence with more encouraging regularity.
Unfortunately though, they had come without their shooting boots. Chance after chance went begging through a poor choice and some wild shooting, perhaps Matlock should have been playing with an oval ball as drive after drive cleared the bar.
At least Williams made Fearon work forcing him to dive smartly to his left to grasp a low strike but two minutes after Lowe’s dismissal, which also brought Wilson a booking, Matlock drew level from their first goal of the campaign.
After Cribley was upended on the left and Bodie booked for booting the ball away, WILSON curled a teasing free kick into the danger area, the ball beating everyone to find the far corner.
Now the stage was set for Matlock to complete the job, but again the offside flag played a prominent and sometimes dubious part in foiling the hosts.Williams collected a yellow card for a combination of back chat to the officials and being harshly adjudged not to have been ten yards from a free kick, but his energy and purpose had certainly been prevalent in lighting the blue litmus paper for Matlock.
Skelmersdale held grimly on against constant home pressure as the pattern of wild long range strikes made the visitors’ job a lot easier than it should have been.
Substitutes Jamie Yates and Ryan King threatened to carve the Lancashire side open down the flanks, King feeding Griffiyhs-Junior to cross for Williams who glanced wide from six yards. But then Cribley twice and Williams fired over the bar before in the game’s last act, King did likewise.
So Matlock had to reflect on not only what might have been, but what should have been. Skelmersdale were there for the taking and the Gladiators had let them off the hook.
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Arran Jameson 2 Liam Marsden (12 Jamie Yates 78) 3 Dwayne Wiley 4 Laurie Wilson 5 Adam Yates 6 Nico de Girolamo 7 Ted Cribley 8 Anthony Griffiyhs-Junior 9 Marc Newsham 10 Jake Green (14 Michael Williams 46) 11 Niall McManus (16 Ryan King 78) Subs not used: 15 Andy Todd 17 Nicky Travis
SKELMERSDALE UNITED: 1 Martin Fearon 2 Phil Mooney 3 Shaun Holden 4 Rob McIntosh 5 Rob Bodie 6 Dale Wright (17 Ronnie McCarthy 61) 7 Kenny Strickland (15 Tony Rendell 67) 8 Benito Lowe 9 Chris Almond 10 Ben Hodgkinson 11 Daniel Burns (14 Calum Mahoney 72) Subs not used: 12 Ian Rowlands 16 Lucas Perquet
REFEREE: Aaron Bannister (Pontefract) ATTENDANCE: 244 BEST GLADIATOR: Laurie Wilson