STAFFORD RANGERS 2-0 MATLOCK TOWN
Veteran striker Karl Hawley scored twice to give the hosts a comfortable victory on a day when Matlock put in a flat performance and never looked like hitting the heights of their showing in the 2-1 win at Farsley Celtic four days earlier.
Striker Curtis Morrison who returned on loan from Guiseley on Friday was named as a substitute but it was an unchanged Matlock line-up. Rangers manager Neil Kitchen though had obviously done his homework as Harry Limb, a big danger to Farsley, scarcely had a kick, and in many ways it was reverting to the norm as far as Matlock were concerned. They only started to make an impact when it was too late at two goals down.
Matlock did not manage a single shot until the 51st minute when Ted Cribley’s effort was deflected wide but with the second Rangers goal arriving a couple of minutes earlier, they once again faced a huge task to bring home at least a point.
Rangers began well with Josh Craddock and Hawley shooting off target before play became more even until poor defending led to the hosts taking a 15th minute lead, as HAWLEY got the better of Adam Yates from a Kieran Westwood cross to fire low past Phil Barnes from fifteen yards.
Stafford had a great outlet down the left in the pacy Osebi Abadaki and he caused headaches for Matlock in the 25th minute, his cross after a mazy run being stabbed wide by Tyrell Waite at the near post.
Waite had scored against Rangers in Matlock’s 2-0 home win in October.
With Matlock down to ten men, Yates being off taking treatment for an elbow to the face, Stafford threatened again when Jamie Jackson lost the ball on the right, Abadaki again involved with another chase at speed before Dwayne Wiley cut out the cross at the expense of an unproductive corner.
Joe Doyle-Charles was working his socks off in midfield but Matlock needed extra spark to get back into the contest and their hopes suffered a massive blow only four minutes after the restart.
Matlock were on the attack as Limb’s ball to Cribley was intercepted and as Rangers broke, they cut through the heart of the Town defence and although Wiley got a challenge in, he could only knock it against HAWLEY as the ball ricocheted beyond Barnes. It was a scrappy effort that was much in keeping with Matlock’s performance so far.
A double change came on the hour with Shaun Harrad and Michael Williams replacing Limb and Kieron Wallace respectively. Harrad knocked down a cross towards Cribley but a good challenge from a Stafford defender took the sting out of the shot.
Abadaki curled a fine effort narrowly wide for Rangers before penalty appeals went unanswered when Williams went down in the box at the other end.
The Gladiators might well have pulled a goal back on 65 minutes when Jan Yeomans drove inches wide after good approach work from Harry Vince and two minutes later another chance came when Harrad went equally close.
But Stafford had gained the initiative and the lead and once again Matlock had left it too late in trying to assert any influence on proceedings.
Substitute Massiah MacDonald set up Hawley for a hat-trick chance with seven minutes remaining but Barnes did well to keep the ball out.
In a late rally from Matlock, excellent defending from Jordaan Brown as he headed a dangerous cross over his own bar kept the hosts’ clean sheet intact, a fact which was confirmed when Harrad drove across the face of goal in the dying stages.
STAFFORD RANGERS: 1 Adam Whitehouse 2 Sam Griffiths 3 Kieran Westwood 4 Kieran Morris 5 Jordaan Brown 6 Josh Craddock 7 Osebi Abadaki 8 Jack Sherratt 9 Karl Hawley (15 Matt Bailey 90) 10 Tyrell Waite (12 Massiah MacDonald 80) 11 Robert Thompson-Brown (Levi Reid 73) Other subs: 14 Joe Thomas 16 Daniel Westwood
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Phil Barnes 2 Jake Green 3 Jan Yeomans 4 Joe Doyle-Charles 5 Adam Yates 6 Dwayne Wiley 7 Jamie Jackson ( 15 Curtis Morrison 69) 8 Kieran Wallace (12 Michael Williams 60) 9 Harry Limb (14 Shaun Harrad 60) 10 Harry Vince 11 Ted Cribley Other subs: 16 Chris Ondong-Mba 17 Jordan Pierrpont
REFEREE: Sarah Garratt (Halesowen) ATTENDANCE: 468 BEST GLADIATOR: Joe Doyle-Charles