Stafford Rangers 2-0 Matlock Town
A poor start, a fifth penalty spot failure of the season, some misfortune. All of these factors combined in this defeat for Matlock against a physical Rangers outfit who had five players booked and one sent off, all before the interval!
The result was not totally unexpected, for joint managers Glenn Kirkwood and Craig Hopkins had emphasised to their players beforehand of what to expect. Given also Matlock’s two tough cup ties against Halifax while Stafford had not played for a week and a half, the hosts looked the fresher side and went for the jugular from the start.
Inside the opening minute Adam Yates did well to clear his lines although unbeknown to him, the assistant had his flag erect for offside.Soon afterwards though a half chance fell to Josh Gordon who shot wide but Matlock were having to fight tremendously hard to keep Stafford at bay.
The pressure was momentarily eased when Michael Williams’ shot was blocked , his follow up attempt drifting more than comfortably off target.
But Stafford instantly returned to the attack and from a corner on the left Phil Barnes saved magnificently from a Kyle Perry header before there was a remarkable escape for the visitors soon afterwards as from a corner played in low from the right, Izak Reid’s shot clipped both the bar and the post and was perilously close to crossing the line before Liam Marsden scrambled clear.
Matlock’s respite though, would not last long as by the 9th minute Stafford had deservedly broken through. Reid sprinted past Jake Green on the right to deliver a peach of a driven low cross which GORDON hoisted into the roof of the net.
Only another fine Barnes save from Gordon five minutes later prevented a second Rangers goal as Matlock badly needed to establish a foothold in the game.
Thankfully from the visiting viewpoint, Matlock managed to stem the tide of pressure and the bookings count began when Samuel Griffiths kicked and upended Ted Cribley on the left.No free kick was given due to a sensible advantage played by referee Ben Speedie as a Niall McManus effort was blocked at the expense of an unproductive corner.
But Stafford had another spell of intense pressure forcing three corners in which Barnes made another great save to fingertip away a Kris Taylor shot.
Out of the blue though came a possible lifeline for the Gladiators as Richard Batchelor fouled Marcus Dinanga to give Matlock a 34th minute penalty. Dinanga was keen on taking it, but Cribley pulled rank. After Taylor was booked for dissent, Cribley shot to Adam Whitehouse’s left but the goalkeeper pushed the ball away and a golden chance to dent Stafford’s bright start had evaporated.
Joe Doyle-Charles shot wide as Matlock finished the half better, Stafford having Sean Geddes, Gordon and Batchelor cautioned but also having full back James Bowen red carded for a stamp on McManus out on the right touchline. Dwayne Wiley nodded the free kick wide when it eventually came in after long Stafford protests.
It could so easily have been all square at the interval, but for a cracking point blank stop by Whitehouse from a Green strike. By the same token, Matlock would probably have been happy at only being the one goal behind, given the battering they endured early on.
They made a good start to the second half with a shot by Williams passing narrowly wide after just a couple of minutes. He went closer still on 52 minutes, his twenty yarder beating the unsighted Whitehouse but rebounding to safety off his left hand post.
This was Matlock’s best spell, they needed a slice of good fortune in the Rangers penalty box, An Adam Yates shot was deflected wide but Stafford defended brilliantly, with Reid doing particularly well to block a strike by McManus .
A possible handball shout in the Stafford box was ignored by a referee who got most of his decisions correct.
Matlock’s comeback hopes though took a severe and terminal jolt when Stafford doubled their lead on the hour. Set pieces, with Stafford having a tall robust side, were giving Matlock lots of problems and the goal came from a corner on the right which saw a scramble in the six yard area, a shot eventually hitting BATCHELOR and going in for what was an untidy, but undoubtedly vital strike.
A McManus cross failed to drop kindly for the waiting Doyle-Charles or Dinanaga as Matlock looked for a way back, but on the day it was a bridge too far. Williams was again off target but Stafford broke quickly and Perry’s effort was deflected wide as there was the equal chance of Rangers adding third as Matlock finding the net at the other end.
There were late bookings for Marsden and Williams as frustration appeared to set in. Stafford had prepared well and had done a decent job in preventing Matlock from playing their fluent passing game. Matlock had been punished for a slow start, they had been told what to expect but appeared not to heed the advice they had been given.
This result, and those elsewhere on Saturday, proves what a wide open league it is this season.
STAFFORD RANGERS: 1 Adam Whitehouse 2 Samuel Griffiths 3 James Bowen 4 Kieran Morris 5 Mat Bailey 6 Kris Taylor 7 Izak Reid 8 Sean Geddes (12 Levi Reid 70) 9 Kyle Perry (14 Anthony Dwyer 85) 10 Josh Gordon 11 Richard Batchelor Other subs: 15 Jack Sherratt 16 Roger Lee 17 George Cater
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Phil Barnes 2 Liam Marsden 3 Jake Green ( 14 Jamie Yates 67) 4 Joe Doyle-Charles 5 Adam Yates 6 Dwayne Wiley 7 Niall McManus 8 Michael Williams 9 Curtis Morrison (12 Marc Newsham 73) 10 Marcus Dinanga 11 Ted Cribley Other subs: 15 Alex Pursehouse 16 Kevin Grocott 17 Nico de Girolamo
REFEREE: Benjamin Speedie (Liverpool) ATTENDANCE: 563 BEST GLADIATOR: Phil Barnes