This first league win in six matches was achieved with a little more difficulty than was envisaged at the half time break which came at a bad time for Matlock.
The Gladiators had dominated the first half and were 2-1 up and pummeling the visitors, but after the interval and particularly when the visitors brought on burly substitute Brett Mbalandra in the 58th minute, it was Trafford who got the upper hand as Matlock sat deeper.
But at the end of the day the record books will show Matlock claiming all three points as they scored as many goals in one game than they had in the previous five league outings.
Shaun Tuton, on his return to the club from Belper Town had a lot to do with that. He showed great strength, a willingness to battle, good mobility and awareness and helped himself to a well deserved goal. On the evidence of Saturday, he looks to be a great signing.
The Gladiators immediately went into the attack and Trafford were holding on in the early stages as a number of crosses bounced about their penalty box. Tuton’s low centre was just begging to be finished off but no-one was there to oblige and then a Corey Gregory ball suffered the same fate.
There was a nasty shock in store for the hosts though as with their first meaningful attack, Trafford stole a 15th minute lead. The Matlock central defenders were caught sleeping as a free kick released SIMON HACKNEY down the inside left channel and the former Carlisle United winger lifted a delicate finish over Jonathan Hedge.
Crucially though Matlock leveled straightaway. From a free kick of their own, Danny Holland superbly laid a neat short pass to TUTON who drove a smart fifteen yard finish past goalkeeper Kieran O’Hara.
Then Matlock stepped up the pace with wave after wave of attacks. Micky Harcourt’s 24th minute free kick was deflected for a corner and when they came again Tuton’s cross from the right was desperately cut out by Andy Smart with Holland waiting for the kill. From the corner David Haggerty headed inches too high and repeated the trick from another corner just a minute later. Oscar Radford and James Ashmore were narrowly off target from distance as the pressure intensified, so it was no real surprise when Matlock took a deserved 40th minute lead.
Again the goal came from a free kick, this time on the right, which HARCOURT rose to head powerfully in off a defender on the line. As they searched for a third Haggerty nodded just wide and Matlock just did not want the half time whistle.
The early signs looked good for Matlock after the break with the Holland / Tuton partnership again flourishing. O’Hara kept Trafford in contention with a smart save from Holland after `Tuton had played him clear.
Trafford clearly had to do something to stem the tide for the ball was coming straight back at their defense too often for comfort. Mbalandra made a difference, holding the ball up intelligently and suddenly the course of the game began to change.
But the next chance fell to Matlock as substitute Joe Leesley created it for himself, firing wide just three minutes after coming on.
Matlock for some reason sat back allowing Trafford more freedom than at any time in the game and the hosts were punished with a leveler on 69 minutes. Mbalandra was the architect with a fine cross field pass to the onrushing PAUL ASHTON on the left who drilled a firm drive beyond Hedge.
But the goal encouraged Matlock to go back on the attack. Holland went close as he drove over the bar before a magnificent 75th minute winner earned the Gladiators maximum points. JAMES ASHMORE hit a fine twenty yard volley after a Trafford had failed to clear their lines effectively for his first goal of the campaign, a vital one to boot.
It was a goal worthy of a bigger stage but one also that could reignite Matlock’s play off bid. They should not have had to rely on a winner at that stage as the game should have been put to bed far sooner. However they do look more dangerous now as an attacking force and the Holland/ Tuton combination could be a profitable one for them.
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Jonathan Hedge 2 Micky Harcourt 3 Oscar Radford 4 Martin Foster 5 David Haggerty 6 Adam Yates 7 Liam Needham 8 James Ashmore 9 Danny Holland 10 Shaun Tuton 11 Corey Gregory (12 Joe Leesley 60, 15 Lee Featherstone 89) Other subs: 14 Bradley Grayson 16 Jordan Snodin 17 Matty Leese
TRAFFORD: 1 Kieran O’Hara 2 Steve Mason 3 Andy Smart 4 Danny Meadowcroft 5 Nia Bayanu (17 Ali Nsangou 83) 6 Tom Schofield 7 Simon Hackney 8 Martyn Andrews 9 Michael Oates (16 Brett Mblandra 58) 10 Rory Fallon 11 Paul Ashton Other subs: 12 Christopher Palmer 14 Omar McKenzie 15 Callum Jones
REFEREE: Mr B Cooke-Atherstone ATTENDANCE: 254 BEST GLADIATOR: Shaun Tuton
By Ian Richardson