Nantwich Town 0-2 Matlock Town
Matlock produced their best away display of the season to deservedly bring all three points home from the Weaver Stadium on Tuesday night.
First half goals from Michael Williams and Ricky German were just reward for an effervescent and energetic Gladiators performance and earn a victory which their fans hope will be a springboard for a good end of season run.
Matlock made three changes from the team beaten at Halesowen. Debutant goalkeeper Richard Walton replaced Jordan Pierrepont with Phil Barnes maybe facing a delayed return after injury while captain Adam Yates and Joe Doyle-Charles were back after illness and suspension respectively as Jan Yeomans and Brad-Lee Gascoigne dropped to the bench.
The small contingent of visiting fans journeyed to South Cheshire probably more in hope than expectation given recent results but they were in for a pleasant surprise.
The dye was probably cast inside the opening thirty seconds as German chased down a Dwayne Wiley through pass and the Dabbers’ nervous goalkeeper, Myles Boney, on loan from Blackpool, headed clear and was fortunate to hear the whistle blow as German jumped with him.
Boney did well to dive at German’s feet in the 5th minute from Ted Cribley’s ball down the right as Matlock made an impressive opening, defending from the front and denying Nantwich any time and space to play their trademark attractive passing game. It was a pattern that would remain for virtually the whole contest.
A calamitous mess up involving Boney and his defenders though presented the Gladiators with a 9th minute opener and even then it took a while for the chance to be converted. German was through after a faulty Boney clearance was cut out, Harrad took over but was crowded out before WILLIAMS accepted the responsibility to slide in a low shot from the edge of the box.
Boney partially atoned for his part in the goal as he stole the ball off German who looked destined to score from Joe Doyle-Charles’ persistent closing down and pass.
Nantwich broke swiftly from that escape for their most dangerous attacker, winger Joe Mwasile to cut in from the right, his shot losing power from a deflection off Kieran Wallace for Walton to hold comfortably.
Sean Cooke’s dipping thirty yard free kick was a couple of feet too high before tempers flared when Matt Bell’s late challenge felled Williams, Matlock’s players reacting angrily before Bell was yellow carded.
In a brief spell of ascendancy for the hosts, Cooke had a shot blocked and then sliced Mwasile’s cross wide but Matlock remained the more dangerous and could have put the game out of Nantwich’s reach before the interval.
Harrad’s strike caught a defender to earn a corner from which German fired straight at Boney who then presented Matlock with possession again, Curtis Morrison seeing Boney again make up for his error with a brave save.
But Matlock were building up a head of steam and a warranted second goal arrived five minutes from half time when Harry Clayton lost possession to the terrier-like Doyle Charles, Cribley taking over to feed GERMAN on the right who comprehensively beat Boney with a fine cross drive from the right into the far corner.
Matlock had a four man to one advantage for this second goal and it could have been even worse for Nantwich as only a fingertip from Boney denied Doyle- Charles from distance and from the corner Doyle-Charles fired softly at the shell shocked custodian. The half concluded with a brilliantly timed tackle on German by Joel Stair as the striker was set to pull the trigger with only Boney in front of him.
The main talking point from the visitors point of view was could they maintain the momentum? The next goal would be crucial.
Jake Green anticipated a Mwasile cross quicker than Clayton to make an important clearance before another Cooke free kick was too high.
Boney though again erred as his clearance only found Cribley to quickly set up Harrad whose shot was deflected narrowly wide. Soon afterwards Stair was floored by a Williams powerdrive and after Courtney Wildin was booked for fouling Doyle-Charles, another misdemeanour from the hosts gave Matlock a free kick taken by Kieran Wallace which Boney did well to push aside low to his left. Boney had to then backpedal as he lost the flight of Cribley’s cross and was relieved to see the ball drop behind.
Doyle-Charles picked up his customary caution and was soon followed by Green for time-wasting as Matlock had clearly learned from the poor game management at Halesowen. From the Doyle-Charles booking, Stair’s flicked header dropped narrowly wide.
Matlock responded positively again as substitute Jamie Jackson and Williams combined sweetly on the right, the latter’s cross flashing across the six yard box.
It took eighty five minutes for Walton to be tested, he passed with flying colours.
He somehow changed direction to claw away a deflected effort from Toby Mullarkey before making another first class save from Steve Jones’ header as the game entered the first of five added minutes.
Nantwich had one last fling for a consolation as another Jones header flew wide but it had been too little too late as far as the Dabbers were concerned.
Matlock stopped the rot with a heartwarming performance and the rare luxury of a clean sheet, their first since November 25.
It left fans asking where the performance had come from, why they can’t play like that more often and can they follow it up with a similar showing? We’ll find out at home to Stourbridge on Saturday.
NANTWICH TOWN: 1 Myles Boney 2 Jamie Morgan 3 Courtney Wildin (15 Nathan Cotterell 73) 4 Joel Stair 5 Troy Bourne 6 Matt Bell (12 Toby Mullarkey 62) 7 Joe Mwasile 8 Caspar Hughes 9 Harry Clayton 10 Sean Cooke 11 David Forbes (16 Steve Jones 46) Other subs: 14 Clayton McDonald 17 Fabian Speiss
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Richard Walton 2 Jake Green 3 Kieran Wallace 4 Joe Doyle-Charles 5 Adam Yates 6 Dwayne Wiley 7 Ted Cribley (14 Harry Limb 83) 8 Michael Williams 9 Shaun Harrad 10 Ricardo German (12 Jamie Jackson 79) 11 Curtis Morrison. Other subs: 15 Jan Yeomans 16 Brad-Lee Gascoigne
REFEREE: Daniel Issawi (Lancashire) ATTENDANCE: 186 BEST GLADIATOR: Joe Doyle-Charles