Whitby Town 1
Sam Hodgson 4
Matlock Town 1
Chris Bettney 32
Matlock Town: Jon Kennedy, Micky Harcourt, Ben Algar, Liam King, Lee Featherstone, James Lukic, Chris Bettney, T J Nightingale (Lee Whittington 84), Ian Holmes, Kris Bowler, Gareth Davies. Subs not used: James Knowles, Kris Witcombe.
Referee: N J Sharp - Hartlepool
Star Man: Micky Harcourt
A MOMENT of sheer opportunism from Chris Bettney ensured Matlock returned home with a well-deserved point from their visit to the sunny, but breezy, seaside.
The Gladiators were trailing to Sam Hodgson’s fourth minute header, but on 32 minutes, Bettney at last saw one of his trademark free kicks find the target.
Kris Bowler had been fouled some 25 yards from goal and while Whitby goalkeeper David Campbell and the outfield players were lining up the defensive wall, Bettney immediately cracked a crisp shot into the top right-hand corner.
Whitby complained but referee Neil Sharp was adamant that the goal was valid and it was a case of relief and joy for Bettney, who has seen at least three free kicks hit the woodwork with the goalkeeper beaten in earlier games.
Matlock had to reorganise at the back as Adam Yates was missing due to receiving his university diploma. Liam King partnered James Lukic in central defence, with Lee Featherstone returning at left back and Ben Algar pushed forward. King’s drive in midfield was missed but Bowler did his best to fill King’s boots as the engine room aggressor.
Perhaps the changes partly accounted for Matlock’s slow start. Whitby, without a home win so far, brought in two loan signings from nearby Hartlepool in powerful striker Callum Hassan and midfielder Lewis Hawkins, and they immediately had the Gladiators on the back foot. Playing with the breeze at their backs, the Seasiders won two early corners. The second one caught Matlock sleeping as it was played short before Sam Hodgson met the cross to glance beyond Jon Kennedy and into the bottom corner.
Algar broke with purpose and his cross was blocked at the expense of a corner with travelling Gladiators fans claiming a handball. The promising spell of pressure ended when Campbell easily held a tame shot from Bettney.
Hassan shot across the face of goal in the 11th minute, but Matlock steadily found their feet. The hosts’ star man Kevin Burgess produced a tremendous covering challenge to deny Ian Holmes, who had latched on to Bettney’s slide rule pass. Algar’s shot was then charged down at the expense of a corner before Bettney had the visitors back on level terms.
A hopeful effort from Bettney dropped wide before another free kick from the winger, in a similar position to his goal, was caught under the bar by a watchful Campbell.
Micky Harcourt drove forward deep into the Whitby box in the 40th minute to accidentally collide with Campbell, who needed treatment after bravely diving at the Gladiator’s feet. James Lukic then got under a Bettney cross to head too high.
There was little to choose between the teams after the interval. Scoring opportunities were scarce as both teams cancelled each other out.
Mark Robinson volleyed a Callum Martin cross well wide in the 58th minute and on the hour Gareth Davies shot was too high after TJ Nightingale and Holmes helped on Harcourt’s low cross.
Nightingale created a chance for himself virtually out of nothing on 72 minutes, shooting narrowly off target.
Whitby at last pressed more when substitute Jake Faichney came on for the final quarter of an hour. Kennedy pushed out a low free-kick from Robinson, the ball falling conveniently for Lukic who completed the clearance at the expense of a corner. The Gladiators’ skipper was well placed again to deny Faichney and from the corner Burgess headed too high.
But the clearer chances had fallen to Matlock and with three minutes left, substitute Lee Whittington stretched to connect with a centre from Bettney, but could only slice wide.