Marine 1-3 Matlock Town
This fine 3-1 victory, only their second in 2019 excepting the one over the now defunct North Ferriby United, secured Matlock Town's Premier Division status for another season. Goals from Michael Williams and Callum Chettle gave Town a two goals interval lead but Callum Doyle's reply seven minutes after the resumption had the visitors wobbling for a short spell until Chettle added a third for the Gladiators in the 68th minute.
It secured their first league double of the campaign, again discounting their results against North Ferriby, and it was Matlock looking more like their old selves, hard working, pacy and dangerous, as they were during their successful spell during the final three months of 2018.
Traffic problems en route to Merseyside with visiting players being delayed meant an 8pm start. Greg Tempest, Michael Hollingsworth and Chettle were recalled to the starting eleven with Brad Beatson being absent, Cleveland Taylor being the last arrival and Jonny Margetts injured in Saturday's defeat to Warrington.
It was a six pointer with the Gladiators holding a three point advantage over the Mariners at kick off.
The speedy James Murray caused Matlock a succession of early problems and he was unfortunate not to score in the 4th minute as his shot skimmed the top of the bar after a penetrating break on the left.
Matlock soon won the opening corner of the contest, won by the lively Marcus Marshall which was cleared and returned into the box but Marshall was offside. A brief flurry at the other end brought Marine's first corner, danger being suppressed as Kieran Holsgrove's tame strike was held by Ross Durrant.
But Matlock drew first blood in the 11th minute as Marshall escaped down the right, Williams meeting his inviting centre and scoring at the second time of asking by firing the loose ball fiercely off the underside of the bar after his initial strike had been blocked. Murray had two more promising breaks which came to nothing but Matlock soon had them on the ropes.
A desperate foul by Sam Barnes on Marshall saw the Mariners full back booked in the 28th minute, a minute before CHETTLE hoisted a high ball into the middle which totally and surprisingly deceived 6'7" home custodian Joe Hilton to nestle in the net at the far post.
Marshall went in hard on Hilton moments later to join Barned in the notebook, Hilton needing a couple of minutes of treatment from Marine's physio. It led to three minutes of first half stoppage time and with Matlock enormously happy with their night's work to date.
In these circumstances, the third goal of the match is usually vital. A blistering Williams volley ended up in Hilton's midriff but an easy concession of a goal by Matlock in the 52nd minute had the Gladiators on the back foot. Nobody tracked and picked up DOYLE who had the easiest of close range headers by the far post.
Matlock hung on grimly, albeit only temporarily as a revitalised Marine held the upper hand, Durrant pushing away Steven Irwin's power packed twenty five yarder before Brett Mblanda lifted a close range effort over the bar before and then seeing his shot flash across the face of the goal and narrowly beyond the far post.
In between Mblanda's attempts, Williams fired directly at Hilton after a quickly taken throw on the left. Matlock desperately needed a third goal for breathing space and it came when CHETTLE was played clear through the middle as the home defence opened up alarmingly, and although Hilton saved his first effort, Chettle was alert enough to follow up and slip home the loose ball.
The Marine threat dissipated, save for Durrant knocking away a thirty five yard bullet from Irwin and the goal had re-established Matlock's dominance.
Choosing a star man is difficult, there were a number of top class displays. Tempest, filling in at left back barely put a foot wrong, while going forwards, Marshall and Williams were superb, but Chettle narrowly gets the nod for his brace of goals and an all round fine performance. Sensible game management followed in the closing stages, Matlock using all three permitted substitutes and wisely retaining possession and their control of the game.
They leapt back up to twelfth and may have eyes on Whitby and Hyde, five points ahead of them in their closing four games. If they repeat this performance, they may stand a good chance of a top ten finish.
MARINE: 1 Joe Hilton 2 Sam Barnes 3 Charley Edge 4 Danny Shaw 5 Chris Doyle 6 Kenny Strickland (12 Sam Tattum 46) 7 James Murray 8 Steven Irwin 9 Brett Mblanda 10 Kieran Holsgrove (14 James Joyce 79) 11 Craig Carney (15 Dylan Sumner 79) Other subs: 16 Danny Mitchley 17 Germano Mendes
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Ross Durrant 2 Lee Beevers 3 Greg Tempest 4 Michael Hollingsworth 5 Dwayne Wiley 6 Adam Yates 7 Callum Chettle (14 Jordan Chapell 90+1) 8 Nathan Whitehead 9 Craig Westcarr (12 Cleveland Taylor 90+5) 10 Marcus Marshall (16 Nyle Blake 79) 11 Michael Williams Other subs: 15 Nathan Morley 17 Terry Fleming
REFEREE: Chris Porter (Leyland) ATTENDANCE: 253 BEST GLADIATOR: Callum Chettle