Stalybridge Celtic vs Matlock Town FC
Bower FoldNorthern Premier League
Matlock Town FC3
STALYBRIDGE CELTIC 2-3 MATLOCK TOWN
Three goals up and cruising, it could so easily have been by far more, Matlock finished sweating and hanging on for the victory as hosts Stalybridge fought back with two exceptional goals in the last twenty four minutes.
Goals from Harry Wakefield, Al Byrne and Karl Demidh had put the Gladiators in a seemingly unassailable position as they outfought and outplayed the shell shocked hosts who had chased shadows for much of the opening two thirds of the game.
But Harry Benns pulled one back and then in the 90th minute Ethan Henderson set up what proved to be a tense period of injury time for the Gladiators who avoided conceding again by the skin of their teeth as Jim Pollard made a sensational double save, pushing a Benns strike on to the post and the tipping the follow up from Djavan Pedro on to the underside of the bar, the ball bouncing down on to the goal line before Raul Correia knocked the loose ball over the bar.
So it was a real squeaky bum moment for the Gladiators and their fans who at one stage looked like celebrating a convincing victory by at least a four or five goals margin.
Jaz Goundry replaced Adam Yates and Saul Milavonovic came in for Dan Bradley as manager Martin Carruthers made two changes to the team which had returned home from league leaders South Shields with an excellent point on Saturday. Yates and Bradley had picked up minor injuries in the north east.
The Gladiators maintained their high pressing approach which had been successful at the First Cloud Arena and that policy paid dividends within 4 minutes as WAKEFIELD charged down a clearance from nervous goalkeeper Greg Hall, the ball rebounding into the net off Wakefield’s face for an unreal , memorable and first Matlock goal for the number nine.
Wakefield appeared to be knocked cold by the impact but the realisation that he had found the target soon had him back on his feet to terrorise the Celtic custodian and his defenders even further.
He might have scored again on 8 minutes when Hall lost the ball on the edge of his penalty box, Wakefield nipping in to shoot goalwards but his shot bobbled agonisingly and narrowly wide of Hall’s right hand upright.
Soon afterwards Demidh set up Wakefield again, his shot cannoning off the foot of a post. Celtic simply had no answer to the strength of Wakefield, Demidh’s excellent movement and the skill and tenacity of Byrne and John Johnston on the flanks and with Milovanovic, Ethan Cartwright and Connor Dimaio running the show in midfield, more goals for the visitors looked a certainty.
They doubled their lead in the 23rd minute as Johnston, in space on the left slipped past Jacob Lara with consumate ease to feed BYRNE who had time to tee up his shot which was fired accurately back across Hall into the bottom corner.
Matlock continued to attack and somehow the hosts held on. Excellent work by Demidh and Johnston saw the latter supply the former with a cross, Stalybridge blocking the header to save Hall being troubled again. The Gladiators were enjoying themselves as were the fans who had made the journey up to Tameside being in full voice for much of the contest. Even when they lost Sharman who had to leave the field with a bleeding nose in the 40th minute, Matlock still controlled the show until the final minute of the half when a Tom Miller header dropped wide and Pedro shot tamely at Jim Pollard.
Alex Duhameau replaced Sharman at the start of the second period, Celtic replacing the shell shocked Lara with Godwin Abadaki.
Captain for the night Ioan Evans, against the club he left to join Matlock last season, firmly headed a Byrne corner inches too high in the 48th minute but two minutes later it was three nil as an exquisite Byrne pass sent DEMIDH streaking clear and a superbly executed and delicate chip from the number ten looped over Hall and dropped beautifully into the corner.
Now surely it would be a matter of how many Matlock would score. Just after the hour substitute Jorome Slew sprinted clear and was forced wide by Hall but the chance was still there as the supporting Byrne drove narrowly wide of the far post.
Out of the blue the arrears were reduced when a bullet of a strike from 25 yards by Benns rocketed past Pollard and suddenly there was a glimmer of light for Celtic.
Initially Matlock remained the dominant force and they struck the woodwork for a second time on 76 minutes, Slew setting up Johnston to fire against the inside of the far post, Cartwright slicing the loose ball wide. Ten minutes later Johnston was in again, opting to shoot from an acute angle and Hall blocking his effort with Slew pleading for a cross ten yards out.
Then a desperate stretching interception by Darius Waldron from Johnston’s cross nearly resulted in an own goal, Hall saving low to his left.
With 90 minutes on the clock Matlock conceded a free kick twenty five yards out and HENDERSON curled a tremendous direct shot beyond Pollard’s dive to set up the heart wrenching final few moments. Matlock were lucky to survive but on the flip side their earlier dominance meant they were deserved winners.
The victory saw them rise to sixth spot in an increasingly tight race for a play-off spot. In the end all turned out well in what was their best attacking away performance of the season.
STALYBRIDGE CELTIC: 1 Greg Hall 2 Jacob Lara (14 Godwin Abadaki 46) 3 Ben Richardson (16 Alfie Henderson 61) 4 Kyle Harrison 5 Darius Waldron 6 Tom Miller 7 Djavan Pedro 8 Ethan Padden (12 Harry Benns 61) 9 Raul Corriea 10 Chris Dagnall 11 Domaine Rouse Other subs: 17 Connor Leach 18 Aarron Grewal
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Jim Pollard 2 Jamie Sharman (16 Alex Duhameau 46) 3 Ethan Cartwright 4 Saul Milavonovic 5 Jaz Goundry 6 Ioan Evans 7 Al Byrne 8 Connor Dimaio 9 Harry Wakefield 10 Karl Demidh (12 Jorome Slew 57) 11 John Johnston Other subs: 14 Dan Bradley 15 Adam Yates 19 Saul Deeney
REFEREE: Tom Swift (Stockport) ATTENDANCE: 374 BEST GLADIATOR: Harry Wakefield