Stafford Rangers vs Matlock Town FC
Marston RoadNorthern Premier League
Matlock Town FC0
Stafford Rangers 2 -0 Matlock Town
Joe Kenton and Tom Tonks scored the goals shortly before and shortly after the interval which ended Matlock’s winning run in the league at the eighth time of asking.
A win would have put the Gladiators on top of the league, that might have been a possibility had they taken their first half chances when they looked marginally the better of the two sides.
But the two goals, especially the second seemed to deflate Matlock who mysteriously had a Callum Chippendale goal ruled out late on which might have set up a grandstand finish.
After the euphoria of the nine goal romp against Witton Albion in midweek, the performance had shades of after the lord mayor’s show against a Stafford side who look a much improved unit after their struggles of the previous few seasons.
Thursday night signing, defender Ioan Evans replaced Ashton Hall in the starting line up in the solitary change from the Witton game.
Joe Cuff, who nearly came to Matlock last season before a last minute change of mind, shot directly at Shaun Rowley in the 2nd minute before ingenuity from Alex Byrne saw home goalkeeper Luke Pilling breathe a huge sigh of relief when the Matlock number seven’s instinctive first time lob from forty yards bounced narrowly wide.
Hughes went equally close and might be thinking he should have found the target as he nodded a Byrne free kick past Pilling’s right hand post, Pilling then getting the benefit of referee James Cox’s whistle as Hughes looked to finish off Chippendale’s centre.
Rangers fought back as Rowley was well placed to hold a strike from Tonks and a free kick from Cuff flew sharply across the Gladiators penalty box.
After Byrne’s free kick cleared the bar after he himself had been fouled, the tricky winger had Matlock’s best chance when Hughes sent him beyond the last defender but his low shot beat both Pilling and the post.
Town were punished for those missed opportunities on 42 minutes when Cuff broke quickly down the left, the ball eventually finding KENTON at the back post to slot comfortably into the corner.
Matlock came off frustrated, assistant manager Dave Wild being shown the red card as the referee made his way to the dressing room for one comment too many.
Pilling held a Hughes header from Reece Kendall’s long throw on the left but Matlock’s hopes of turning the game around suffered a hammer blow in the 49th minute as TONKS beautifully curled his free kick low beyond Rowley.
Declan Walker and Alex Wiles made way for Jesurun Uchebgulam and Craig King but Stafford showed a steely determination not to let Matlock back into the contest.
Jake Charles had a powerful strike beaten away by Rowley before Ryan Qualter’s header dropped wide at the other end.
Mr Cox was making some puzzling decisions with Byrne and Hughes receiving rather harsh bookings.
Chippendale did his utmost to try and shovel in a knock on by Hughes from Byrne’s cross, his half hit shot dribbling narrowly wide.
After Uchebgulam received a more obvious booking, Pilling turned over a Byrne free kick before a bizarre moment in the 85th minue saw Matlock denied a route back into contention as Pilling lost his balance to carry a Chippendale header over the line, the referee belatedly giving Rangers a free kick following complaints from the home players. The official had originally seemed to award the goal. Pilling booted the ball away before the official’s change of mind and was booked, joining defender Andrew Burns for a first half challenge on Chippendale.
Stafford survived seven added minutes at the end quite comfortably to consign the visitors to their second league defeat of the campaign.
Matlock went home feeling they had not had the rub of the green but also knowing their performance was not up to scratch. As Ryan Qualter remarked afterwards “we wouldn’t have scored if we’d played until midnight.”
STAFFORD RANGERS: 13 Luke Pilling 2 Andrew Burns 3 Joshua Endall 4 Alex Ray-Harvey 5 Jonathan Moran 6 Kieron Dawes 7 Joe Kenton 8 Tom Tonks 9 Jake Charles 10 Luca Navarro (15 Alex Fletcher 90) 11 Joe Cuff Other subs: 12 Tyrone Ofori 14 Ben Woods 16 Michael Lennon 17 Thomas Carr
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Shaun Rowley 2 Jamie Sharman 3 Reece Kendall 4 Ioan Evans 5 Ryan Qualter 6 Mark Lees 7 Alex Byrne 8 Alex Wiles (11 Jesurun Uchegbulam 52) 9 Liam Hughes 10 Callum Chippendale 11 Declan Walker (12 Craig King 62) Other subs: 14 Ashton Hall 15 Kayde Coppin 18 Paul Cooper
REFEREE: James Cox (Brierley Hill) ATTENDANCE: 520 BEST GLADIATOR: Alex Byrne