First-half treble proves crucial for Spennymoor as they overcome Town

Niall McManus scored Matlock's second goal.
Niall McManus scored Matlock's second goal.

A brace of goals inside a couple of second-half minutes were insufficient to earn the Gladiators a point after a first-half horror show.

By the interval the Moors were three goals in front thanks to some awful Matlock defending and a tepid first-half performance from the visitors who arrived late at the Brewery Field, the match getting under way at 8.02pm.

Before most of the 503 crowd had settled, Matlock found themselves behind when a routine through pass from Jamie Chandler cut the centre of the Gladiators defence open with consumate ease and Graeme Armstrong rifled Spennymoor into a first minute lead.

That was lamentable defending but Matlock briefly steadied the ship, their goal not coming under threat again until the 15th minute when Chandler’s free-kick swerved narrowly over the bar.

Two minutes later came Matlock’s only first-half attempt of note, a clever lob from 25 yards from Cleveland Taylor beating goalkeeper Dan Lowson but dipping just too late.

More questionable defending had Matlock in further strife when on 26 minutes they failed to close down a quick interchange of passes between David Dowson and Mark Anderson, the latter beating Barnes with a low diagonal finish to double the hosts’ advantage.

It was three by the 35th minute with the most disappointing aspect from the Matlock viewpoint that the Moors did not have to work too hard to score their goals.

Barnes pulled off a magnificent save when Armstrong met a left wing corner with a power packed header. It showed the lesson had not been learned when the second flag kick came in from the opposite side and nobody picked up Shane Henry who scored with a textbook header.

Before half-time, Henry was again free to glance wide from another set piece.

Matlock were out for the second-half a good five minutes before the Moors.

“We didn’t rant and rave,” said joint boss Glenn Kirkwood afterwards. “We just wanted them to show some pride, not only for themselves but the shirt they were wearing and the club.”

Matlock’s performance improved immeasurably after the interval and it meant a nervous end for the hosts.

Michael Williams tried a daisycutter first time volley that flashed narrowly wide in the 48th minute before Joe Doyle-Charles’ shot lacked the power and accuracy to trouble Lowson.

But Matlock were now at last competing, being first to the ball, with the introduction of substitutes Jamie Yates and Curtis Morrison giving them increased impetus.

Morrison turned smartly only to see his shot well blocked but Matlock had better luck on 63 minutes when Taylor’s shot from 25 yards struck Chandler and deceived goalkeeper Lowson to pull a goal back.

Then Matlock had realistic hope of saving the game when following a Yates strike into the box which Spennymoor could not clear effectively, NIall McManus picked up the pieces to stroke home from close range.

Now it was definitely game on. From a position of comfortable supremacy, Spennymoor were now clearly rattled as Matlock pressed forward, Williams came closest to a leveller with a 25 yarder that was always rising, but nevertheless well struck.

Matlock had given themselves too much to do. However, it was a brave fightback and one that did not look possible at half-time.

But you simply cannot gift goals to sides like Spennymoor who strengthened their play-off hopes and put another noticeable dent in Matlock’s.

Spennymoor: Lowson, Griffiths, Mason, Chandler, Watson, Curtis, Mitchell, Henry, Armstrong (Taylor 88), Dowson, Anderson (Ramshaw 70). Subs not used; Johnson, Fisher, Smith.

Matlock: Barnes, Marsden, Green, Doyle-Charles (Morrison 61), DeGirolamo, Wiley, McManus, Taylor, Williams, Dinanga (Newsham 74), Sharpe (J Yates 54). Subs not used: Wright, Cribley.

Ref: A Herzceg

Att: 503

Star Gladiator: Michael Williams