Blyth Spartans 1 Matlock Town 2
Goals from Danny Holland and Corey Gregory and a good all round team performance were the ingredients as Matlock cooked up their first ever win against Blyth Spartans at Croft Park on Saturday.
The win was all the more satisfying given Matlock played the last 13 minutes with ten men following the controversial dismissal of Gareth Davies for allegedly taking too long to take a 77th minute throw in.
Jon Kennedy took his place in goal having recovered from his bad eye injury sustained in the defeat at Worksop five days earlier but Adam Yates was not ready so initially Mark Atkins named the same team which had started at Worksop.
Lewis McMahon was on the bench but Atkins’ plans had to suddenly change when Micky Harcourt pulled a hamstring in the warm up so Davies was drafted in at right-back.
Blyth, undefeated going into the game, had the first noteworthy attempt in an even start on nine minutes when veteran midfielder Neal Hooks shot at Kennedy from distance.
Matlock soon responded as Joe Leesley broke down the left to find Holland and a defender’s intervention took the pace of Holland’s shot which looped up for goalkeeper Conor Grant to catch comfortably.
But Grant was well beaten on 15 minutes as Holland scored his first competitive goal since his return with a crisply struck volley from a Daryll Thomas cross which flew under the Blyth custodian. It was a brilliantly-taken goal which came at a cost as Thomas received a leg injury in the build up and had to be instantly replaced by McMahon.
McMahon was soon involved, shooting well wide from a Holland flick and another promising move came to nothing as a well placed Leesley overhit his centre from the left.
Gregory drove weakly at Grant after good work from the pacy White when Holland was possibly better placed.
Blyth danger man Robbie Dale drove fiercely across the top of the goal to remind Matlock that they needed to remain fully focused on the job in hand but Holland twice could have added to his tally before the half-time whistle shrilled with the Gladiators holding a slender single goal lead.
McMahon had the ball in the net soon after the resumption when David Haggerty nodded down a Davies free-kick but celebrations were soon cut short as a foul had been awarded.
Joe Kendrick lifted an effort too high after Kennedy had punched out his free-kick but Town swooped quickly to the other end to begin a period of pressure which saw them double their lead on 52 minutes.
Holland was this time the provider, chesting the ball down to Gregory, who on the run from the right hit a measured diagonal shot past Grant which found the corner with unerring accuracy.
Matlock looked in control but a keen Blyth outfit would not lie down.
They forced a 58th minute corner which caused a terrific scramble in the penalty box, which was eventually cleared before they were given a lifeline five minutes later.
Aaron Wearmouth went down as James Ashmore cleared his lines and the Sunderland-based referee pointed to the spot. Kendrick saw his spot kick saved by Kennedy but netted the rebound which sat up sweetly for him.
Davies pushed Dale to receive his first yellow card with McMahon joining him for his protests. Blyth turned up the heat to force four successive corners before the pressure eased as Wearmouth drove comfortably wide.
Then Davies went for his early shower and there were fears that Matlock’s earlier good work was being undone. But while Matlock were forced to defend deeply in the final stages when also an astonishing eight extra minutes were added, Kennedy was not seriously extended.
This was down in no small measure to excellent defending throughout the team with skipper Liam Needham leading by example, winning a host of superb tackles and putting his body in where it hurt.
But Matlock finished deserved winners, they had that extra bit of quality where it mattered in the final third, with Holland taking the man-of-the-match award for his fine finish, an assist and tremendous workrate.
BLYTH SPARTANS: 1 Conor Grant 2 Nathan Biddle ( Robert Nolan 81) 3 Joe Kendrick 4 Danny Parker 5 Arjun Purewal 6 Neal Hooks 7 Danny McGuire 8 Damien Mullen 9 Aaron Wearmouth (14 Ian Watson 86) 10 Matthew Wade (16 Craig Hubbard 40) 11 Robbie Dale Other subs: 15 Phil Airey 18 Ryan Cummings
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Jon Kennedy 2 Gareth Davies 3 Joe Leesley 4 Lavelle White (15 Martin Foster 77), 5 David Haggerty 6 Oscar Radford 7 Corey Gregory 8 James Ashmore 9 Danny Holland 10 Darryl Thomas (Lewis McMahon 16) 11Liam Needham (16 Jordan Snodin 87) Other sub:17 Matty Leese
REFEREE: I Quinn (Sunderland) ATTENDANCE: 315 BEST GLADIATOR: Danny Holland
Report by Ian Richardson