MATLOCK TOWN 2-1 RUSHALL OLYMPIC
Matlock came from behind and then had goalkeeper Phil Barnes to thank for earning three priceless points against visiting Rushall.
The Gladiators trailed at the interval thanks to a Danico Johnson strike after 24 minutes and it was their character more than anything else that saw them fight their way back into the game and then win it.
Niall McManus levelled on 65 minutes before Dwayne Wiley scored a dramatic winner with four minutes left.
McManus returned to the side in place of Jake Green who had collected a knock at Nantwich in midweek, Rhys Sharpe moving to left back. McManus was soon threatening the Rushall defence with a fine run on the right, his penetrtaing low ball narrowly eluding both Curtis Morrison and Michael Williams, a simple tap-in would surely have brought Matlock the opening goal.
Matlock continued to pour forward but could not find the killer touch and it was the Pics that created the next opportunity on 18 minutes as Barnes was down smartly to block a low shot from skipper Aaron Forde and then drop on the loose ball.
But Barnes would be beaten when Isaac Cooper played JOHNSON in behind the Town defence to slide a low shot into the opposite corner. Matlock momentarily lost concentration and the punishment was severe. Eight minutes afterwards an uncharacteristic slip by Adam Yates let in Forde but as he rounded Barnes he ran out of room and Matlock could breathe again.
In between a Sharpe strike from twenty five yards dropped wide but the Gladiators could not create much else in a disappointing opening period which also saw McManus cautioned for simulation when he went down in the penalty box.
With Rushall looking relatively comfortable, Town joint bosses Craig Hopkins and Glenn Kirkwood made a double change ten minutes into the second half, Joe Doyle-Charles and Marc Newsham replacing Cleveland Taylor and Morrison.
The change worked as Matlock increased the energy in midfield and Newsham was winning more of the ball in attack. Johnson was booked for a late tackle on Doyle-Charles before on 61 minutes, Newsham won an important header to let in Marcus Dinanga who hooked a ten yard effort narrowly wide.
But four minutes later Matlock were back in the game as Newsham’s header out to Ted Cribley saw the Town number eleven slip a short pass to Dinanga in the box, the top scorer’s shot being pushed out by goalkeeper Jose Veiga but only as far as McMANUS who gleefully tucked away the loose ball.
Cribley was left free on the left to cross low into the centre with nobody in a blue shirt on hand to profit, but in the next breath Matlock survived a scare when from Cooper’s ball in from the left substitute Jazz Luckie struck the angle of post and bar with Barnes well beaten.
That was the signal for Matlock to increase the tempo with Hopkins and Kirkwood plus the crowd urging them forward. Newsham’s near post header from an 80th minute corner was narrowly too high but a period of pressure brought its reward for the Gladiators shortly afterwards.
A Sharpe corner from the left was met by a Yates header which Rushall cleared but only as far as Sharpe again whose cross was slightly too high for Newsham. Doyle Charles though kept the pot boiling, tossing a centre back into the middle, WILEY rising majestically above the Pics defence to plant a firm header into the Rushall net to cue mass celebrations on the pitch, bench and on the terraces.
But the job was not yet done. Sixty seconds later Barnes made a fine point blank save from Stan Mugisha’s header and in the third minute of added time a miskicked shot from Joe Hull forced Barnes to tip the ball over to make it a nervous end for the Gladiators.
It was a case of the result being all important when effort and application rather than flair was evident. Rushall will feel they deserved a point and they could have a case, but Matlock will not be concerned with that. They kept their season going but will know they will need better all round performances in their remaining matches.
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Phil Barnes 2 Liam Marsden 3 Rhys Sharpe 4 Cleveland Taylor (12 Joe Doyle-Charles 55) 5 Adam Yates 6 Dwayne Wiley 7 Niall McManus 8 Michael Williams (15 Andy Wright 89) 9 Curtis Morrison (14 Marc Newsham 55) 10 Marcus Dinanga 11 Ted Cribley Other subs: 16 Nico Degirolamo 17 Jake Green
RUSHALL OLYMPIC: 1 Jose Veiga 2 Luke Bottomer (15 Marcus Jackson 63)3 Sam Whittle 4 Aaron Forde 5 Joe Hull 6 Aris Christophorou 7 Brian Smikle 8 Michael Partidokrono 9 Craig Bannister (16 Jazz Luckie 63) 10 Danico Johnson (14 Stan Mugisha 78) 11 Isaac Cooper Other subs: 12 George Bowerman 17 Lewis Probert
REFEREE: Barry Lamb (Manchester) ATTENDANCE: 383 BEST GLADIATOR: Dwayne Wiley