Grounds for optimism despite a harsh defeat

James Lukic v Ashton on Saturday.
James Lukic v Ashton on Saturday.

Evo-Stik League Premier Division,

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Ashton United 3-0 Matlock Town

Matlock Town: Jon Kennedy, Micky Harcourt, Adam Yates, Liam King, Simon Sturdy, James Lukic, Chris Bettney, Lee Whittington, Tyeisse Nightingale, Steve Warne (Gareth Davies 60), Ryan Mallon (Ian Holmes 52) Other subs: Lee Featherstone, Will Kendall, Nick Buxton

Referee: J Hunt – Liverpool

Attendance: 178

Star man: Chris Bettney

The result suggests a drubbing but this was far from the truth as the final scoreline flattered the Robins at Hurst Cross.

For Matlock, it was obviously not what they wanted after a promising pre-season. They took the wrong option at crucial times which made life easier than it should have been for the current League Cup holders.

Their first questionable decision came after four minutes when a combination of Simon Sturdy and Adam Yates sent Jonathan Bathurst sprawling in the box.

Liverpool referee Jonathan Hunt pointed straight to the spot and Aaron Burns slotted neatly beyond Jon Kennedy’s dive to the right.

At least the response was positive but at times they wanted the extra touch in promising positions. The build-up play was neat and tidy and the Gladiators looked the better side, but penetration was lacking.

Ashton’s new signing George Melling was immense at the heart of their defence, protecting sometimes suspect goalkeeper Terry Smith with authority and steel.

Lee Whittington, who partnered Tyeisse Nightingale up front, was again a busy bee and could have stung the Robins on 12 minutes. He controlled a long ball with a cushioned header followed by a controlled volley which Smith unconvincingly pushed aside.

Ashton’s one big chance of the half followed on 16 minutes when Matty O’Neill cut inside and fired over.

But Matlock could consider themselves unfortunate to trail as they struck the woodwork twice.

On 29 minutes, Yates stormed forward to fire a venomous shot goalwards which struck a Ashton player on the hand to divert the ball against a post. Matlock’s vehement appeals for a penalty of their own went unanswered.

Nightingale then set up Whittington, who dallied too long and was crowded out as Matlock maintained the pressure. Ashton had Liam Dawson booked for bringing down Chris Bettney, joining Steve Warne for speaking out of turn, and from the free-kick Bettney struck the bar.

Ian Holmes replaced Ryan Mallon on 52 minutes with Gareth Davies coming on for Warne.

This saw Matlock keep the ball a little better and they looked dangerous every time Bettney was on the ball.

The winger’s excellent 69th minute cross saw Holmes rise to head straight at Smith before Bettney’s drive struck Nightingale and robbed it of the venom to trouble Smith.

Perhaps the major defining moment came with 11 minutes to go when Sturdy headed back across goal for Whittington to hook inches wide.

It was a great chance and, within seconds, Matlock were two goals behind. Bathurst broke clear for Kennedy to parry his shot but substitute Chris Amadi fired low into the corner.

Yates struck another piledriver which flattened Ian Bennett but Bennett would have the last laugh.

In stoppage time, he broke clear and emphatically shot past Kennedy.

It is not all doom and gloom for Matlock. There are aspects they can improve but equally there are grounds for optimism too.