MATLOCK TOWN 2-1 BARWELL
Matlock moved up to seventh and well placed for a push on the top five following this hard fought victory in their first home game for three weeks on Tuesday night.
It was a classic case of a game of two halves for the Gladiators, sharp and bright in the opening period which finished with them holding a solitary goal advantage, but one that could so easily have been more emphatic. Then the second half fell flat for them as the determined Leicestershire visitors’ direct style saw Matlock have to defend for long periods before the hosts doubled their lead. But a soft late goal for Barwell led to a nervous finish for the Gladiators who held on grimly for a third successive league win.
Ted Cribley and Michael Williams replaced Jamie Yates and Alex Pursehouse in the eleven that had started the FA Trophy win at Spennymoor as Matlock started brightly, looking particularly dangerous down the right flank.
Niall McManus, looking more like his usual self in recent games, whipped in a teasing thigh high cross which Barwell goalkeeper Liam Castle punched away at full stretch. Soon afterwards Curtis Morrison nearly took full advantage of an error by Declan Towers but his shot was wild and harmless. Thirty seconds later came Barwell’s opening salvo as Phil Barnes gathered a tame low strike from midfielder Craig Stanley.
Matlock’s play received constant applause from the home crowd with Barwell again clearing another McManus cross with difficulty, before the hosts best chance thus far came on 20 minutes. This time the danger was on the left through Cribley, who after being fed by McManus saw his vicious shot palmed away by Castle.
This was the shot in the arm for Barwell to have a brief spell of pressure but the Matlock defence stood firm as Luke Barlone’s free kick placed comfortably over the bar was the hosts’ only remotely worrying moment.
Matlock swept to the opposite end to take a 28th minute lead as Jake Green’s cross was helped on by MARCUS DINANGA, the ball possibly striking a defender en route to the onion bag. Seven minutes later it might have been two as some smart interplay saw Cribley send Morrison clear only for the on loan Spireite to pull his shot wide of the far post.
Further opportunities fell to Town before the half time whistle, Cribley weaving his way through before seeing his shot charged down by Cleveland Taylor, quickly followed by Morrison slicing wide from Dinanga’s assist. Cribley then won possession deep in Barwell territory only to be denied by Towers’ excellent tackle, while seconds before the interval, a fine save by Castle in a one on one with Dinanga kept the Canaries chirping.
Barwell reorganised a defence which had often been stretched by bringing on Joe Ballinger for Eddie Nisevic and immediately looked a different prospect after the resumption. Stanley’s twenty yarder was too high in the 50th minute and following a rare error from skipper Adam Yates, Romario Martin lifted his shot over the bar as Phil Barnes advanced quickly to limit Martin’s options.
An off balance Cribley’s shot drifted towards the corner flag as there were clear signs that Matlock were struggling to regain their first half fluency. The hosts simply could not get going, but Barwell failed to extend Barnes and a wild twenty yard shot from Ballinger, after he had made space from a second corner in quicjk succession, sailed high and wide.
Matlock badly needed a touch of class, some inspiration and a second goal and with ten minutes remaining, they got all three!
Morrison kept calm and composed as he broke clear on the left to look up and feed the onrushing McMANUS who drilled a firm shot past Castle.
Nigel Julien sliced harmlessly wide for Barwell who made Matlock sweat in the chilly night late on as with two minutes to go, Castle pumped a long free kick forward and substitute MONTEL GIBSON looped his header over Barnes to deny Matlock a clean sheet.
Gibson then smashed a low shot across the face of goal at the start of four minutes of added time, each Matlock clearance being met by cheers with Barwell piling forward but ultimately being unable to save a point.
Had Matlock either taken their first half chances or kept up the momentum from the first half, the win might have been a good deal more comfortable, but few teams at Step 3 level could have maintained the energy and rhythm the Gladiators showed before half time throughout ninety minutes.
So they had to show their defensive qualities and their work without the ball was outstanding, Doyle-Charles again being a terrier in the engine room.. For all Barwell’s second half possession, Barnes was not extended, a measure of how capably the Gladiators defended with Liam Marsden looking a class act at right back.
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Phil Barnes 2 Liam Marsden 3 Jake Green 4 Joe Doyle-Charles 5 Adam Yates 6 Dwayne Wiley 7 Niall McManus (14 Jamie Yates 84) 8 Michael Williams (12 Alex Pursehouse 82) 9 Curtis Morrison 10 Marcus Dinanga (15 Nico de Girolamo 90) 11 Ted Cribley Other subs: 16 Marc Newsham 17 Jordan Lee
BARWELL: 1 Liam Castle 2 Cleveland Taylor 3 Eddie Nisevic (12 Joe Ballinger 46) 4 Declan Towers 5 Niall Rowe 6 Nigel Julien 7 Owen Story (15 Montel Gibson 66) 8 Craig Stanley 9 Luke Barlone 10 Brady Hickey 11 Romario Martin Other subs: 14 Simeon Cobourne 16 Liam Kay 17 Nathan Edgington
REFEREE: Wade Smith (Manchester) ATTENDANCE: 268 BEST GLADIATOR: Liam Marsden