MATLOCK TOWN 1-2 ASHTON UNITED
Dave Hoole lost his first game in interim command but Matlock went down with their heads raised firmly high after a thriller at a rain soaked DCJ Group Arena on Tuesday night.
Ashton came from behind to secure the victory that virtually assured their place in the play-offs in a game which started fifteen minutes late due to Ashton players being delayed by a motorway accident in the Manchester area at teatime.
The crowd were treated to three top quality goals and an end to end tussle that could have gone either way, but with the visitors having the slightest of edges. Ted Cribley gave the hosts a 17th minute lead cancelled out by John Pritchard five minutes later. The winner came through Jack Dyche’s header on 77 minutes.
In a tight opening the game was contested mainly in midfield in the opening exchanges before Daniel Mooney tried his luck from twenty five yards which Matlock goalkeeper Richard Walton was equal to on 12 minutes.
The Gladiators swiftly responded to force a corner which was cleared but they scored in spectacular style in the 17th minute after a controlled build up involving Jake Green and youngster Harry Wood saw CRIBLEY unleash a tremendous twenty five yarder that flew gloriously past the diving Josh Ollerenshaw and into the top corner.
The goal gave Matlock added impetus as they knocked on Ashton’s door again but found it slammed shut in their face. The visitors then broke for Kieran Wallace to foul Mooney and from a similar distance to Cribley’s strike, JOHN PRITCHARD’s excellent free kick beat the diving Walton and finished high in the net.
Both sides went for the jugular on a slick surface which the rain had made almost perfect for fast and flowing football but stout defending kept the scoreline still even.
A Jake Phillips shot was blocked after an incisive move into the Robins’ box and Jamie Jackson’s pace saw him beat the offside trap and penalty appeals were rejected as Matlock shouted for a hand ball.
But Matlock were indebted to Walton on 39 minutes who was down brilliantly to knock away a teasing bouncing finish from Dyche who was unlucky on ther stroke of half time as he slid in to meet a cross from the right only to force his attempt narrowly wide. In between Matlock threatened to earn a corner on the left which Wiley headed a foot over the bar.
Matlock could possibly have done with Ricky German, required by Chesterfield for the Derbyshire Senior Cup Final in a longstanding agreement, to unsettle a strong Ashton back line.
Ashton had a couple of sniffs of goal when Mooney rushed his shot when decently placed and Walton grabbed a long distance effort from Nicky Platt as the second half unfolded.
Then it was Matlock’s turn to threaten as Jackson outpaced Josh Granite on the left, his low centre being blocked by the covering Aaron Chalmers, the resulting corner being cleared. It was quickly followed by another penetrating run from Phillips who
fed Wood and Granite gratefully blocked the Academy product;’s goalbound drive.
Both teams used all of their allotted substitutes and Matlock had a youthful look about them in the last half hour.
Wood saw another effort charged down before Ashton proved to be a little more streetwise with great defending coupled with danger when they swept forward.
Adam Yates managed what looked to be a decisive header to block a fierce Mooney strike as the ball ricocheted out for a corner and Ashton found their vital winner. The flag kick was cleared to where it had come from on the right but the ball was swung back in and DYCHE’s header screamed into the roof of the net as Walton scarcely moved.
It looked a big ask for Matlock to recover now, particularly with the visitors swarming forward and substitute Dean Smalley should have made the points safe but carelessly shot wide with only Walton to beat with six minutes left.
Afterwards though the Gladiators threw everything they had at the packed Robins defence. Ollerenshaw opted correctly in punching clear a well struck Wallace free kick, a Wiley shot trickled through to Amos Kabeya who failed to find sufficient purchase on his shot and Cribley nearly grabbed a second goal as his twenty five yarder hit a defender and earned a corner.
In stoppage time a Wood corner hit low found its way through all of the six yard box. A touch would surely have brought a leveller. Even Walton was up in the Ashton penalty box for set pieces, but Ashton held on in the closest of battles.
Although there were sad looks on the home players faces at the end, they left the DCJ Group Arena after their final home outing of the season with heads held high, having competed gallantly with one of the division’s leading sides.
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Richard Walton 2 Jake Phillips 3 Jake Green 4 Joe Doyle-Charles (12 Zak Brunt 62) 5 Adam Yates 6 Dwayne Wiley 7 Harry Wood 8 Kieran Wallace 9 Harry Limb (14 Amos Kabeya 72) 10 Ted Cribley 11 Jamie Jackson (16 Chris Ondong-Mba 58) Other subs: 15 Billy Whitehead 17 Ethan Knowles
ASHTON UNITED: 1 Josh Ollerenshaw 2 Dominic Smalley 3 Lewis Baines 4 Josh Granite 5 Aaron Chalmers 6 Sam Sheridan 7 Nicky Platt 8 Liam Tomsett (12 Nic Evangelinos 72) 9 Jack Dyche 10 Daniel Mooney (14 John Roberts 80) 11 John Pritchard (17 Dean Smalley 62) Other subs: 15 Kanye Makhosini 16 Matthew Chadwick
REFEREE: Lee Hible (Sheffield) ATTENDANCE: 248 BEST GLADIATOR: Ted Cribley