GRANTHAM TOWN 2-1 MATLOCK TOWN
2018 started as 2017 finished for Matlock in terms of missed chances and sloppy defensive work costing them dearly.
A rumbustious first half finished with the Gingerbreads two goals in front thanks to a brace from Lee Shaw and both sides down to ten men as the hosts’ defender Tom Batchelor and the Gladiators’ Micky Harcourt both saw red in separate incidents.
Jamie Jackson pulled one back for Matlock who dominated the second period and missed a number of decent opportunities throughout the contest to have at least drawn or returned home with maximum points.
Matlock kept the same starting line up that had drawn with Buxton on Boxing Day and they looked comfortable in an uninspiring opening that saw both teams let down by poor final crosses.
But then Matlock handed Grantham the lead on a plate. A Harcourt free kick was underhit and cut out before being knocked instantly forward to SHAW on the left who had a largely uninterrupted path to goal before steering a low shot past Phil Barnes on 12 minutes.
Harcourt then did well to nod a teasing Danny Meadows cross behind for the first of two corners , the second seeing Rhys Lewis glancing a header across the face of the goal.
In between home goalkeeper Kieran Preston clung on to a Michael Williams free kick at the second attempt before Barnes was adjudged to have brought down Jordan Hempenstall in the corner of the penalty box in the 19th minute, SHAW firing home from the spot to double the Grantham lead.
Adam Yates was booked for his protests and was soon followed into the notebook by Harcourt whose strong challenge on Shaw might have had more serious consequences.
Lewis had a shot charged down as Matlock looked at sixes and sevens but they soon regained some composure as Ted Cribley crossed from the right and Preston grabbed the ball with Jackson diving in to make head contact. Then Preston pulled off a fine save at point blank range from Jackson following another cross from Cribley.
Then the game erupted with Batchelor being spotted by the referee spitting at Shaun Harrad on 33 minutes and being sent off after referee Matthew Law, who had seen the incident, confided with his assistant.
Batchelor unwisely remained at the edge of the tunnel area and there was more acrimony ten minutes later as Harcourt and Shaw clashed, both men receiving yellow cards, but Harcourt having to leave the field for his earlier misdemeanour Dwayne Wiley also ended in the book in the aftermath.
To their credit in the second half Matlock rallied as they pinned Grantham back with Preston being the hosts’ star man.
Max Hunt had replaced Jake Green with Kieran Wallace being pushed further forward. A Jackson centre looked to be heading towards the net until a late interception from Preston before Wallace shot across the goal when a more composed finish would have found the target.
Matlock’s pressure told on 63 minutes when Harrad on the right pulled the ball back for JACKSON to shoot past Preston. Another chance fell Jackson’s way almost immediately following good work by Cribley and a Wiley header dropped wide as Grantham grimly held on.
A sliced Cribley effort was fielded by Preston and Jackson drove high and wide as Matlock continued to ask the questions. The sucker punch of a Grantham counter attack was always there though and Barnes did well to keep out a strike by Shaw which surely would have killed the Gladiators off.
The damage though had been done. “How did we miss so may chances” moaned joint boss Glenn Kirkwood after the game. Unfortunately it is becoming an all too familiar tale, coupled with mistakes at the other end.
Matlock are currently throwing points away. Grantham rose to third spot with the win but on the day, errors aside, the Gladiators looked equal.
GRANTHAM TOWN: 1 Kieran Preston 2 Tom Potts 3 Oliver Luto 4 Tom Batchelor 5 Rhys Lewis 6 Michael Hollingsworth 7 Danny Meadows 8 Andy Wright (12 Jack McMenemy 85) 9 Jordan Hempenstall (15 Ryley Thompson 78) 10 Lee Shaw 11 Curtis Burrows (14 Sam Osbourne 69) Other sub: 16 Danny Martin
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Phil Barnes 2 Micky Harcourt 3 Kieran Wallace 4 Joe Doyle-Charles 5 Adam Yates 6 Dwayne Wiley 7 Jake Green ( 14 Max Hunt 46) 8 Michael Williams ( 12 Rhys Sharpe 84) 9 Shaun Harrad 10 Jamie Jackson 11 Ted Cribley Other subs: 15 Nathan Whitehead 16 Zak Brunt
REFEREE: M Law (Leicester) ATTENDANCE: 270 BEST GLADIATOR: Jamie Jackson