Morpeth Town vs Matlock Town FC
Craik ParkNorthern Premier League
Matlock Town FC0
MORPETH TOWN 0-0 MATLOCK TOWN
In a game of few clear cut chances, Matlock battled hard for their point after a long trip and first ever visit to Craik Park on Saturday.
It was the Gladiators’ first draw of the campaign and after results elsewhere, Matlock lead the table on goal difference from South Shields who were 3-1 winners at home to Gainsborough Trinity.
Morpeth proved to be a tough nut to crack and looked better than a side fifth bottom of the table at the start of play.
But it was unsurprising that the contest finished scoreless as neither goalkeeper was seriously extended, Matlock’s best performances coming in their back line in which Ioan Evans and Ryan Qualter were both outstanding.
Matlock made one change to their side which had seen off Rushall in the FA Trophy seven days previously, Ross Hannah returning to the attack after suspension in place of Jesurun Uchegbulam who was missing through personal reasons. Two of Matlock’s three latest signings, Luke Daly and Luke Hall were on the substitutes’ bench.
Morpeth made a bright start, a 6th minute effort from Andrew Johnson on the left being deflected wide after Ryan Donaldson had supplied the pass. Johnson then had a free kick blocked but the game developed into a war of attrition with neither side able to gain the upper hand.
Matlock created their first chance on 24 minutes, Hannah escaping down the left top pull the ball back for the advancing Alex Wiles who pulled a left footer narrowly wide from sixteen yards. Two minutes later Matlock won a free kick on the right which Hannah glanced harmlessly wide.
Three yellow cards in quick succession were brandished by Stanley referee Chris Joyce, Donaldson being the first for a high challenge on Alex Byrne. Matt Sargent followed him for a late challenge on Joe Walton before Michael Turner was booked for use of his arms on Sargent.
In the midst of these cautions, Hannah was foiled as the ball would not come down conveniently on the artificial surface and the opening disappeared as the Highwaymen cleared their lines.
The league leaders had a decent spell in the lead up to the interval. A shot from Wiles and two follow ups from Byrne were all blocked and seconds before the whistle Hughes rose to plant his header from a centre by Byrne inches past the post.
Morpeth had the lion’s share of possession in the second half, Jamie Sharman doing well to head away a cross from Jack Foalle on the right. Foalle combined sweetly with Walton on a number of occasions to cause Matlock problems.
Gladiators boss Paul Phillips made a double change nine minutes in, Hannah and Sargent being replaced by new boys Hall and Daly. The latter showed some nice touches but Morpeth remained in the ascendancy as the visitors struggled to keep possession.
A teasing Walton cross was superbly helped out by Sharman and then with twenty minutes left came a huge let off for the Gladiators as following an almighty scramble, Michael Turner attempted to backheel the ball home from close range but skipper Liam Hughes was there to hack the ball off the line.
Almost immediately a Byrne cross from the right dropped on to the top of the junction of post and bar but it was mainly the hosts on the attack and a superb Matlock defence denying them.
Home goalkeeper Dan Lowson did well to grab the ball off Wiles’ feet as he surged deep into the penalty box.
Morpeth won a free kick in a dangerous position but taker Ben Sayer was booked for taking it too quickly. The North Easterners constantly knocked on the door but Matlock refused to let them in and the visitors’ defensive display earned them their hard earned point more than anything else. They deserved their draw but no more.
MORPETH TOWN: 1 Dan Lowson 2 Joe Walton 3 Michael Turner 4 Ben Sayer 5 Jeff Henderson 6 Callum Morris (15 Chris Reid 46) 7 Jack Foalle 8 Sam Hodgson 9 Liam Henderson 10 Ryan Donaldson 11 Andrew Johnson Other subs: 12 Wayne Phillips 14 Connor Oliver 16 Ben Ramsey 17 Dale Walker
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Paul Cooper 2 Jamie Sharman 3 Reece Kendall 4 Ioan Evans 5 Ryan Qualter 6 Mark Lees 7 Alex Byrne 8 Alex Wiles 9 Liam Hughes 10 Ross Hannah (14 Luke Hall 54) 11 Matt Sargent (12 Luke Daly 54) Other subs: 15 Liam King 16 Craig King 17 Jerome Greaves
REFEREE: Chris Joyce (Stanley) ATTENDANCE: 480 BEST GLADIATOR: Ioan Evans