MATLOCK TOWN 0-0 BLYTH SPARTANS
Adam McHugh almost singlehandedly won Blyth an undeserved point as Matlock dominated Tuesday night;’s entertaining encounter at the DCJ Group Insurance Arena.
McHugh made save after save as chance after chance went begging for the Gladiators, one of them being a Michael Williams penalty shortly before the interval.
But Matlock, through a combination of McHugh’s heroics, some ill fortune and one or two pieces of poor finishing, could just not find the breakthrough their scintillating football deserved and in contrast the Gladiators custodian Phil Barnes had an easy night, not having a serious save to make.
With Jake Green and Marcus Dinanga laid low with a sickness bug and Liam Marsden not risked due to a tight hamstring, Matlock brought in Alex Pursehouse, Nico de Girolamo and most notably Chesterfield loanee Curtis Morrison in attack, Morrison was a nuisance and a real handful all night showing remarkable strength and adding frightening pace to the Gladiators attacks, For the Spartans defenders, the final whistle could not come quickly enough,
It was Spartans who had the first opportunity aqs Nathan Buddle headed tamely off target from q 5th minute corner, but they would not have many more.
Matlock took the game by the scruff of the neck and were desperately unlucky not to take a 10th minute lead, as despite being fouled, Morrison kept his balance superbly to push the ball beyond McHugh only for Buddle to clear off the line with Morrison looking to star his celebrations.
After an ambitious long range effort from Ted Cribley flew high and wide, Morrison was threatening again, moving on to a McManus pass and turning smartly before forcing McHugh to save low to his right.
Skipper Robbie Dale and Sean Reid were both off target from distance for Blyth who then held out to the interval by the skin of their teeth.
McHugh, for once, failed to hold a well struck Cribley shot, the offside flag denying Marc Newsham as he looked to convert the loose ball. There was a bigger escape though on 40 minutes when Morrison’s pace again opened up the Blyth defence and Buddle sent him crashing to the turf for a penalty. McHugh played every trick in the book in delaying Williams’; spot kick and it worked a treat as the shot was too close to the Blyth custodian for one of his more routine saves of the night.
Undeterred Matlock came storming forward once again and within ninety seconds were cursing their luck when McManus thundered a rocket of a shot against the bar before Blyth desperately cleared their lines.
After a more mundane start to the second half, Matlock should have gone in front on 54 minutes when Cribley cut in from the left to find Newsham who slipped a short pass to Morrison who shot wide from twelve yards with only McHugh to beat.
Soon afterwards McHugh pulled off a fine stop from Morrison after two Matlock players had been fouled in the build up, Andrew Cartwright being booked for his challenge on Joe Doyle-Charles and then being substituted almost immediately.
Matlock continued to stretch the Spartans down both flanks and from a 74th minute corner, McHugh produced his best save, twisting through the air to acrobatically tip over a de Girolamo header which looked odds on to find the target,
Cribley would be the next to suffer as his twenty five yarder was en route for the roof of the net only for McHugh to again claw the ball over the bar.
Of course, Matlock had to be aware of the sucker punch but fifth placed Blyth were mostly uncharacteristically toothless in attack, Luke Armstrong’s 87th minute header which dropped too high being their only second half opportunity.
Still Matlock surged forward, their victory quest being still very much on. In the first minute of stoppage time McManus found space on the left to flash a centre low across the six yard box, which missed Newsham, sliding in for the kill by the narrowest of margins.
But that was the story of the night for Matlock. Their football was a joy to watch but they were ultimately frustrated by the unbeatable frame of McHugh who probably will not perform better for as long as he plays. On the positive side though it;s just one defeat now in eleven league and cup games.
Perhaps the good luck that deserted them on Tuesday will show up as they go in search of FA Cup glory at Altrincham on Saturday.
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Phil Barnes 2 Nico de Girolamo 3 Alex Pursehouse 4 Joe Doyle-Charles 5 Adam Yates 6 Dwayne Wiley 7 Niall McManus 8 Michael Williams 9 Marc Newsham 10 Curtis Morrison 11 Ted Cribley
Subs-all not used: 12 Jamie Yates 14 Laurie Wilson 15 Andy Todd 16 Ashley Bartle 17 Arron Jameson
BLYTH SPARTANS: 1 Adam McHugh 2 Andrew Cartwright ( 16 Alex Nicholson 67) 3 Michael Liddle 4 Nathan Buddle 5 Ryan Hutchinson 6 Matthew Wade 7 Jarrod Rivers (15 Michael Richardson 82) 8 Matty Pattison 9 Luke Armstrong 10 Sean Reid (14 Stephen Turnbull 58) 11 Robbie Dale Other subs: 12 Christopher Bell 17 Gavin Caines
REFEREE: Tom Kirk (Manchester) ATTENDANCE: 281 BEST GLADIATOR: Curtis Morrison