Battling Gladiators hold league leaders to a draw

Jon Kennedy, Matlock Town goalkeeper
Jon Kennedy, Matlock Town goalkeeper

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Evo-Stik League Premier Division

Northwich Victoria 0

Matlock Town 0

Matlock Town: Jon Kennedy, Oscar Radford, Ben Algar, Liam King, Adam Yates, James Lukic, Ben Hunter (Gareth Davies 74), Steve Warne, Ian Holmes, James Knowles (Nathan Joynes 81), Ben Algar. Subs not used: Tyeisse Nightingale, Kris Witcombe, Nick Buxton

Referee: N S Davies – The Wirral

Attendance: 410

Star man: Jon Kennedy

A GOOD battling performance saw the Gladiators frustrate table topping Northwich as they brought home a hard-earned point from the Victoria Stadium.

Saturday’s visit came just two weeks after the Vics had comprehensively beaten Matlock at the Reynolds Stadium and that was still fresh in the mind of Town chief Mark Atkins ahead of the match.

Atkins had clearly done his homework. In the first game, Matlock gave the Vics far too much time and space so he opted to employ Ian Holmes as a lone striker as he packed the midfield, with James Knowles just in front of colleagues Ben Hunter, Steve Warne, Kris Bowler and Liam King.

James Lukic was a surprise inclusion, recalled alongside Adam Yates after missing the last two games with a knee ligament injury. Oscar Radford switched to right back, Ben Algar filling the other full back berth in place of the injured Lee Featherstone.

The first sniff of an opportunity came Matlock’s way in the eighth minute when Holmes found Hunter with a neat pass but Hunter completely mishit his strike, the ball drifting yards wide.

Northwich immediately won a free kick and Wayne Riley, who netted Vics’ second direct from a free kick in the 2-0 win in Derbyshire, this time saw Lukic block his shot. The Town skipper then produced an even better block to charge down a Jordan Johnson volley.

Jon Kennedy was in great form between the sticks and he did well to grab hold of a well-struck Michael Roddy 20-yarder following an intelligent build-up.

From one Northwich free kick award in the 27th minute, Kennedy produced a fantastic fingertip save to push a Chris Budrys header over the bar.

After being under pressure, Matlock might have gone in front on 31 minutes. Two Vics players collided and the ball was sprayed out to Holmes on the right, whose low centre was just outside the supporting Liam King’s radar.

A measure of Vics’ dominance was that Matlock did not gain their first corner until the 42nd minute. Their second came two minutes later and nearly led to their downfall.

The hosts broke quickly and Algar looked to have the situation under control. But Wade robbed him to race clear, round Kennedy, but then shoot wide.

Vics were quickly out of the blocks after the interval and when for once, the Gladiators midfield was found wanting, Tom Field had time and space to shoot but Kennedy was equal to his 20-yarder.

Radford hoofed clear after a scramble in the penalty box with Kennedy grasping a follow-up effort from Riley.

Kennedy saved brilliantly from Wade in the 73rd minute when one of the numerous Short long throws was unintentionally flicked on by James Knowles. Wade got his head to it and Kennedy’s tip over was top class.

Holmes was working his socks off as the lone attacker and deserved better in the 69th minute when he broke through but the ball ran unkindly for him and the chance passed him by.

Lukic went down with cramp having worked like a Trojan at the heart of the defence. Thankfully, he was able to carry on.

So, this was a good point for Matlock as the players carried out Atkins’s instructions to the letter. Lessons from the first game had definitely been learned