A brace from Marcus Dinanga and a late Marc Newsham goal gave Matlock a 3-0 win over Halesowen Town on Tuesday night.
For the Matlock fans, this was payback time after three heavy defeats by the Yeltz in the previous two seasons.
The Gladiators recovered admirably from the pain and disappointment of their FA Cup exit to Altrincham on Saturday to score three and win away in the league for the second successive match,
Even the absence of two of their more outstanding performers so far this term in Dwayne Wiley with a knee injury and Ted Cribley who had sickness and diahorrea could not stop their march to victory. It was a fine team performance, full of industry and commitment and they also did the ugly things well such as closing down their opponent and getting a foot in where needed.
Adam Yates, on his 350th Matlock appearance, was yet again a tower of strength in defence while at the other end young Dinanga ran the show, scoring twice and unselfishly setting up the Gladiators’ third goal for Newsham when he had a great chance of completing a marvellous hat-trick.
The early signs though were not encouraging as Halesowen, unbeaten in their previous seven league outings, dominated the opening exchanges down The Grove slope. But Matlock gradually settled for Jake Green, motoring on the left, to have a low cross superbly cut out by Kyle Haynest, and Michael Williams, who appeared to have made a miraculous recovery from his injury at Altrincham, having a shot kicked off the line by Malcolm Melvin.
A tense and tight opening preiod was deservedly all square at the half way mark.
That soon changed with Halesowen having just cause to look back in Dinanga.
The Burton loanee’s opener on 49 minutes may have been a touch fortunate in some folks’ eyes as Williams blocked a clearance, before a second attempt to knock clear saw the ball ricochet to Dinanga who could scarcely contain his joy as he blasted emphatically home from close range. Joint boss Glenn Kirkwood said afterwards: “No luck about it, he showed a true striker’s instinct.”
Matlock burst forward once again forcing two quick corners, the first one being deflected wide after Nico de Girolamo’s header looked goalbound.
But shortly before the hour Halesowen nearly equalised but Lee Chilton headed wide when he looked certain to score, and then skipper Jay Denny firing inches too high. Excellent covering from Joe Doyle-Charles kept Halesowen at arms length before Matlock doubled their lead thanks to an outstanding finish from Dinanga on 69 minutes. A long punt forward dropped nicely for him but he still had plenty to do before unleashing a vicious low eighteen yard shot across goalkeeper Daniel Platt and into the far corner.
Halesowen were desperate for a swift response but determined Matlock defending denied them.
Within four further minutes Dinanga broke at pace on the left, looked up, found Curtis Morrison who twice had shots blocked but Newsham was also sniffing for the chance which he gleefully banged into the roof of the net. Sub Jamie Yates sliced wide when well placed late on as Matlock also brought on striker Ben Edgson for a first appearance, the fourteenth graduate of the NPL Academy to see first team action.
It had been the perfect night. Altrincham is now long forgotten, Matlock have moved on.
MATLOCK: Barnes, Marsden, Green, Doyle-Charles, Yates, de Girolamo, McManus (Yates 78), Williams (Pursehouse 67), Newsham, Dinanga, Morrison (Edgson 85). Subs not used: Travis, Jameson.
REFEREE: R Dadley (Bedworth).
BEST GLADIATOR: Marcus Dinanga.