Stalybridge Celtic vs Matlock Town FC
Bower FoldNorthern Premier League
Matlock Town FC2
Stalybridge Celtic 0-2 Matlock Town
Second half goals from the immense Ryan Qualter and the athletic Jesurun Uchegbulam saw the Gladiators return to winning ways in the league, having collected only a meagre four points from their previous five league outings.
It means that Derbyshire lead the way at the top of the league, Matlock swapping places with Bamber Bridge to go second behind their local rivals up the A6 who they entertain at the Proctor Cars Stadium on December 27.
Dan Wallis made a second debut for Matlock, returning to the fold after a two year break, replacing Paul Cooper between the sticks. Other changes from the starting line up against Stafford seven days earlier were Jerome Greaves in for the suspended Liam Hughes, Callum Chippendale replacing Reece Kendall and Ross Hannah in place of his brother in law Liam King. Nathan Okome, a loan signing from Chorley was on the bench.
Stalybridge gave a debut to loanee striker Tyreece Onyeka, who had a brief spell at Matlock earlier in the campaign.
In tricky wet conditions, Matlock won the toss to kick up the Bower Fold slope in the opening half. In their away strip of white and navy, they were soon on the attack, a teasing centre from Alex Byrne causing danger in the box with Stalybridge scrambling the ball away for a corner which caused more consternation, Keenan Quansah being flattened and requiring lengthy treatment.
Celtic responded with an attack down the right, Qualter getting in an excellent header to knock away a cross from Josh Dawodu who was always looking to support the home attack down the right.
A Mark Lees shot swerved wide before Stalybridge had decent pressure on the visitors’ goal without managing to find the killer touch.
Quansah did well to get his head to a cross from Uchegbulam from the left, a crucial interception with Jerome Greaves waiting to pounce.
Then came another spell of sustained home pressure with Sam Wedgbury forcing Wallis into a good diving save from a free kick aimed at the near post. Qualter was again just in the right place to knock away a cross from Charley Doyle before Quansah lifted his shot harmlessly high and wide. Onyeka though might have done better than pull his low shot wide of the far post when found in space in the Gladiators’ penalty box.
But then it was Matlock who went close on three occasions in the last few minutes of the half.
Bridge keeper Will Huffer did well to save with his feet from a well struck Chippendale shot after an Alex Wiles cross was cut out by a stretching Connor O’Grady. Seconds later Hannah was on the end of a Byrne cross but Huffer was able to shovel Hannah’s half hit shot away for a corner before a Greaves header beat Huffer but was cleared off the line by Stephen Brogan.
But within two minutes of the restart Matlock were ahead when the hosts could not effectively clear a Byrne free kick and QUALTER, some 22 yards out blasted the ball instantly past a surprised Huffer.
Looking for a speedy equaliser, Chippendale was alert to block a shot from Justin Johnson before Wallis did well to turn behind a low strike from Doyle.
Then Qualter confirmed his star rating with an incredible goal-line clearance to hack away Adam O’Reilly’s shot. Matlock soon broke and more fine play out on the right by Byrne saw him cross to the near post with Hannah touching narrowly wide.
Hannah was one of four Matlock bookings, his being ridiculous as the referee ruled Hannah had dived when challenged from behind in the box, contact looking to have been made. Uchegbulam, Greaves and Qualter were the others yellow carded .
But Matlock would be smiling again with eighteen minutes left. Greaves had a header deflected behind from a Byrne corner to force another, and Byrne’s pin point delivery saw UCHEGBULAM make a great run across the box to glide a magnificent header into the far corner.
Matlock were now in command, defending with authority and breaking with purpose. Byrne floated a free kick disappointingly too high and after substitute Kendall had nodded down a set piece, Hannah put a difficult overhead chance over the bar from close range.
Celtic continued to battle but Matlock’s greater knowhow and some excellent performances throughout the side proved to be crucial as they earned their first league double of the season.
STALYBRIDGE CELTIC: 1 Will Huffer 2 Josh Dawadu 3 Stephen Brogan 4 Sam Wedgbury 5 Connor O’Grady 6 Keenan Quansah 7 Tyreece Onyeka (17 Jake Burton 65) 8 Charley Doyle 9 Scott Bakkor 10 Adam O’Reilly (16 Callum Harris 76) 11 Justin Johnson (15 Hayden Campbell 65) Other subs: 12 Shane Killock 14 Ashley Smith-Brown
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Dan Wallis 2 Jamie Sharman 3 Callum Chippendale (14 Liam King 67) 4 Ioan Evans 5 Ryan Qualter 6 Mark Lees 7 Alex Byrne 8 Alex Wiles 9 Ross Hannah (12 Nathan Okome 89) 10 Jerome Greaves (15 Reece Kendall 74) Other subs: 16 Matt Sargent 17 Luke Hall
REFEREE: Jake Topp (Salford) ATTENDANCE: 437 BEST GLADIATOR: Ryan Qualter