Matlock Town 3-1 Stalybridge Celtic
Matlock’s substitutes won the game as the hosts were hanging on grimly for only a point as Stalybridge, despite having a man less, looked the more likely winners.
An encouraging 521 crowd had seen the Gladiators go in front thanks to Marcus Marshall in only the 2nd minute. Celtic had central defender Oly Marx sent off in the 35th minute for fouling Luke Hinsley as last man.
But as so often happens, the ten men show the fight eleven may not have shown. Matlock started the new half sloppily and were penned back for long periods, so it was no surprise when Celtic equalised thanks to Liam Tongue on 64 minutes.
Matlock struggled to impose any form of authority on the game but their substitutes stepped up to the plate top see them home, but make no mistake, it had been a struggle for Matlock who were on the back foot for long periods.
Jamie Jackson, a minute into added time plus Jake Green six minutes later scored to see Town home.
So, did Matlock deserve all three points?
On the balance of the play it has to be a clear no, but factor in the resilience, commitment and a sheer not to be beaten attitude from Matlock, then the answer is there.
One point possibly yes, three was pushing it but Dave Frecklington’s merry men will not complain.
Marshall was recalled in place of Craig Westcarr who had a hamstring niggle. Brad Beatson, available again after a ban slotted in comfortably at left back whilst Jordan Chapell missed out as Beatson came in, Cleveland Taylor was at right back and Taron Hare pushed further forward into midfield. Shaun Harrad was named as a substitute after a ten weeks absence through injury and would pay an integral role in Matlock’s unlikely win later.
MARSHALL wasted scarcely any time whatsoever in making his mark nodding home a Craig King cross from the left inside the opening two minutes.
He might have doubled both his own personal tally and Matlock’s six minutes later, volleying a Nathan Whitehead cross from the right over the bar when well placed, Whitehead’s persistence having seen him rob Ross Dent a little too easily.
Bridge captain Danny Brady nodded a corner slightly too high, Ross Durrant advancing at pace to head way a long punt towards his penalty area. Tongue’s deflected strike resulted in a corner from which Bakkor cut in from the left to crash a wayward shot which was close to striking the cornet flag!
Then came the red card for Marx, King’s free kick being blocked before Marshall’s header fell wide as Matlock maintained the pressure. Hollingsworth would be off target before Wharton plucked a King cross off Hinsley’s head.
Tongue soon had an effort blocked as Celtic emerged for the second half with a purpose which had Matlock on the back foot. They survived thirteen minutes of pressure before Marshall fired straight at Wharton. But Durrant was the busier of the two goalkeepers, holding a deflected drive from Wolfenden before pulling off a cracking stop by the same player.
But TONGUE equalised, shooting into a vacant net after Wolfenden had again tried his luck.
Now it was all to play for and Matlock looking in a little peril but inspired by skipper Adam Yates, Matlock held their nerve and against the run of play, Matlock scored not once but twice to send their fans home happy.
JACKSON swivelled after Whitehead’s shot ricocheted to him fifteen yards out to fire in a shot which Wharton got a hand to but could not keep out Jackson was booked for taking off his shirt in an act which was a combination of both celebration and relief.
Hare left the field with an egg bump on his forehead after a clash with Scott Wilson emphasising the commitment in the Matlock camp when life had proved uneasy on the day.
Then with the seconds ticking on and Matlock wanting the final whistle to shrill, Harrad kept his cool in a break through the centre to feed the onrushing GREEN who drilled home his shot, again with Wharton half keeping the ball out.
Matlock had got out of jail to reverse the scoreline at the Bower Fold in September. They made hard work of it but at the end of the day people will see a win by a two goal margin for Matlock and the Gladiators rising to eighth place in the table. The win was all important.
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Ross Durrant 2 Cleveland Taylor 3 Brad Beatson 4 Nathan Whitehead 5 Dwayne Wiley 6 Adam Yates 7 Taron Hare (17 Jake Green 90+3) 8 Michael Hollingsworth 9 Luke Hinsley (15 Jamie Jackson 74) 10 Marcus Marshall (12 Shaun Harrad 84) 11 Craig King Other subs: 14 Jordan Lemon 16 Jordan Chapell
STALYBRIDGE CELTIC: 1 Patrick Wharton 2 Liam Tongue 3 Scott Wilson (15 Neil Kengni 90+3) 4 Oliver Marx 5 Danny Brady 6 Michael Clarke 7 Scott Bakkor 8 Glenn Rule 9 Christopher Sharp (12 Josh Solomon-Davies 36) 10 Matty Wolfenden (14 Greg Wilkinson 74) 11 Ross Dent Other subs: 16 James Caton 17 Aiden Winterbottom
REFEREE: Paul Roots (Oldham) ATTENDANCE: 521 BEST GLADIATOR: Adam Yates