Ashton United vs Matlock Town FC
Hurst CrossNorthern Premier League
Matlock Town FC1
ASHTON UNITED 0-1 MATLOCK TOWN
Ryan Qualter’s 54th minute header knocked the Robins off their lofty second in the table perch and gave Matlock their second away win of the campaign and only their second ever NPL win at Hurst Cross.
It was again a totally deserved victory for Matlock as they followed up their 1-0 win against Lancaster at the weekend with another victory to record successive wins for the first time this season. In doing so they replaced Ashton in second place but have of course played more games than a everyone else around them.
Another clean sheet was welcome with Qualter in particular a tower of strength as Matlock blunted the Robins’ attack with relative ease. Really Matlock might have won by a more comfortable margin.
Manager Craig Elliott maned an unchanged line up, with the only change coming on the substitutes bench as Jorome Slew came in for Reon Benjamin-Potts.
After top scorer Alex Wiles ran out of room on the left to bring a promising attack to a halt, it was Ashton who bossed possession initially but without threatening the Gladiators’ goal.
James Baillie slammed a free kick into a strong Matlock defensive wall before Matlock took over, former Robin and Ashton resident Mark Lees shooting a twenty five yarder too high.
Jordan Barnett saw a fierce strike pushed away by goalkeeper Greg Hartley before Hartley impressed again with a good stop from a Reece Kendall header.
Kallan Murphy took more than his fair share of stick from the Ashton defence which included former Gladiator Harry Coates. He was down on the turf in pain but had the tenacity to get back on the horse again, his diving header from Kendall’s cross from the left flashing wide.
A first timer from Al Byrne dropped wide as the yellow shirted visitors swarmed forward but they needed to sting Ashton while they were on top.
Ashton were creating little of note while the chances continued to come for Matlock, Byrne delivering a peach of a cross from the right that might have bore fruit, Murphy being unable to find sufficient purchase on his header. Hartley possibly being a touch jammy to divert the ball for a corner.
Ioan Evans did well to cut out a teasing cross from Ben Hardcastle and Callum Saunders tried to find Hardcastle in the box but Jim Pollard remained untroubled, the header looping up for Pollard to make a comfortable catch.
But another chance fell Matlock’s way shortly before the half time whistle, a fine passing move ended with Barnett’s power packed shot being excellently kept out by an overworked Hartley.
Robins gaffer Michael Clegg was clearly unhappy with what he had witnessed so far as a double substitution was made at the start of the second period as Baillie and Jordan Simpson were removed in place of Mike Phenix and Sam Sheridan.
Sheridan almost immediately received a booking for clattering and battering Murphy, Matlock’s Kendall and Callum Chippendale would follow him later. Hartley was again in the way of Barnett’s resulting free kick, Sheridan shooting high and not so handsomely too high seconds later.
But Matlock would exert more pressure, Wiles cutting in to fire yards wide before Byrne’s strike cannoned off a home defender to allow Byrne to deliver a pin point corner which QUALTER rose majestically to head past Hartley.
Chippendale claimed a penalty when his cross appeared to strike a home hand, referee Danny Hitchell remaining unmoved before Evans nodded another set piece wide.
Matlock began to retreat somewhat, Ben Hough firing off target from distance, before Pollard made his one serious save of the night, diving to his left to clutch a Coates header in the 76th minute.
Wiles had an effort ruled out for offside with nine minutes left when Murphy was again hacked down in the build up. Wiles could have made it safe when substitute Shaun Tuton found him with an inch perfect through ball but again Hartley was out swiftly to block at Wiles’ feet.
There would still though be a moment when Matlock fans’ hearts would flutter as memories of the last gasp winning goal by FC United of Manchester came flooding back. Ashton had a free kick twenty yards out in the third minute of stoppage time which Sheridan curled against the base of the post.
But Matlock probably deserved that lucky moment. Undeniably the better side won as Matlock became the first side to win at Hurst Cross this season.. Ashton is a tough place to visit at any time, but Matlock played with enough confidence and swagger plus steel and determination to suggest that they will be in and around the business end of the table as the season develops.
ASHTON UNITED: 1 Greg Hartley 2 Niall Battersby 3 Matthew Regan 4 Jordan Simpson (17 Sam Sheridan 46) 5 Harry Coates 6 Sam Baird 7 James Baillie (12 Mike Phenix 46) 8 Ben Hough 9 Callum Saunders (14 Max Harrop 68) 10 Ben Hardcastle 11 Tom Warren Other subs: 15 Joe Robbins 17 Cole Lonsdale
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Jim Pollard 2 Kallum Mantack 3 Reece Kendall 4 Mark Lees 5 Ioan Evans 6 Ryan Qualter 7 Al Byrne (15 Shaun Tuton 78) 8 Callum Chippendale 9 Kallan Murphy (12 Jamie Sharman 90) 10 Alex Wiles 11 Jordan Barnett (16 Dominic McHale 88) Other subs: 14 Simon Njaria 17 Jorome Slew
REFEREE: Danny Hitchell (Prenton) ATTENDANCE: 248 BEST GLADIATOR: Ryan Qualter