Matlock Town FC vs Stafford Rangers
Matlock Town FC2
The Proctor Cars StadiumNorthern Premier League
MATLOCK TOWN 2-3 STAFFORD RANGERS
Matlock wasted a gilt edged opportunity to move two points clear at the top of the table with this third home league defeat on the bounce, Stafford completing a league double after winning 2-0 at Marston Road in September.
In a game played in horrific monsoon like conditions, the Gladiators twice held the lead but were ultimately undone playing second fiddle to Rangers in the opening thirty minutes of the second half. Despite a late fightback and the visitors being down to ten men, luck was against them as Rangers somehow held on.
Jesurun Uchegbulam replaced Ross Hannah in attack, this being the only change to the starting line up which had beaten Marske United in the FA Trophy in midweek.
The hosts, playing with the wind and conditions in their favour attacking the Cricket End in the first half, could not have wished for a better start, Rangers goalkeeper Luke Pilley stretching to punch clear a first minute Alex Byrne corner, the ball though falling to LIAM KING who drilled home a low shot from twelve yards.
The Gladiators dominated as Stafford struggled to escape from their own half. Skipper Liam Hughes saw his header well kept out by Pilley before out of the blue came a Rangers equaliser, JAKE CHARLES taking goalkeeper Paul Cooper by surprise to fire a twenty yarder into the net for a 21st minute equaliser.
Matlock soon came close to regaining the lead as Pilley saved well from a fiercely hit shot from Byrne, Hughes haeding too high from the resulting corner.
But Matlock were back in the ascendancy when on 32 minutes, BYRNE hoisted a looping cross towards the far post which beat Pilley and nestles in the far corner. Ryan Qualter’s header cleared the bar as Matlock hunted a third before the half time whistle shrilled with Matlock going to the warmth of the dressing room with a deserved lead.
Rangers though knew they were still very much in contention and with the elements in their favour they soon set about finding a recovery route.
Qualter did well to block a shot from Joe Kenton before Ioan Evans blocked another shot and Alex Fletcher totally miskicked his attempt in a well congregated penalty box.
But Stafford were level again on 55 minutes, Andrew Burns low centre from the right being knocked home by TOM TONKS from close range for a goal that could be classed in the soft variety.
Matlock made a bold move in replacing defender Jamie Sharman with Hannah as both teams battled on in the atrocious weather. Stafford substitute Khaleem Bailey-Nicholls blasted narrowly wide from distance before Callum Chippendale was sent on in place of Liam King.
The deciding goal though came from what looked like an innocuous challenge by Evans on Louis Malandjou, referee Matthew Tyers pointing to the spot with Malandjou then being given his marching orders for striking Byrne under the official’s nose. CHARLES kept his cool thought to fire the spot kick down the middle.
For the rest of the game it was attack versus defence as Matlock piled on the pressure. Stafford defended for their lives, a great block from Ethan Stewart keeping out a Reece Kendall strike before on 85 minutes Hannah thought he had found the leveller, glancing in a Byrne cross, but the assistant stunned and shocked nearly everyone by having his offside flag raised.
Kendall drove wide from distance and then came an amazing incident when an effort from Hughes struck the post to rebound off Pilley and go over the bar. A Stafford defender, and it was difficult to say who given the weather, cleared an Alex Wiles shot with Pilley beaten as the ball simply would not find its way into the Stafford net.
Matlock had left it too late in the second half to turn the screw and frustration boiled over afterwards with Hughes being red carded in the tunnel for remarks to the officials.
With Bamber Bridge, South Shields and Buxton all not in league action, Matlock could and ought to have made a statement of intent. They may well live to regret this missed opportunity.
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Paul Cooper 2 Jamie Sharman (15 Ross Hannah 59) 3 Reece Kendall 4 Ioan Evans 5 Ryan Qualter 6 Mark Lees (17 Luke Hall 77) 7 Alex Byrne 8 Alex Wiles 9 Liam Hughes 10 Jesurun Uchegbulam 11 Liam King (12 Callum Chippendale 65) Other subs: 14 Matt Sargent 16 Craig King
STAFFORD RANGERS: 13 Luke Pilley 2 Andrew Burns 3 Ben Woods 4 Louis Malandjou 5 Ethan Stewart 6 James O’Neill 7 Joe Kenton 8 Tom Tonks 9 Jake Charles 10 Alex Fletcher 11 Theo Bailey-Jones (14 Khaleem Bailey-Nicholls 65 (16 Michael Lennon 87) Other subs: 12 Michael Tait-Moran 15 Jonathan Moran 17 Jude Hill
REFEREE: Matthew Tyers (Sheffield) ATTENDANCE: 496 BEST GLADIATOR: Alex Byrne