Matlock got the win everyone expected against the basement side, but Mark Atkins’ prediction of his team facing a more difficult challenge than the one presented in the 4-1 win at the Butchers Arms in October also came true.
Conditions were a proper leveller, with a strong wind and a heavy pitch which had passed an early morning inspection, but also Droylsden gave it a good shot and might have scored a couple of goals but for fine goalkeeping from Jon Kennedy.
On the flip side, Matlock might also have scored more with Shaun Tuton guilty of two bad misses and Danny Holland failing from a great opportunity late on, so the three points were deservedly Matlock’s but they were not gained easily.
The Bloods did not look like a side who had lost all of their away games so far and picked up just two points this season. A few recent astute signings have galvanized them and it was certainly no stroll in the park for Matlock.
The hosts’ early nerves might have been settled in the 12th minute when Tuton rounded goalkeeper Craig Dootson, but then delayed his shot too long and when he did fire goal wards, full back Brett McNamara had got across to block Tuton’s effort at the expense of a fruitless corner.
Three minutes later Matlock were indebted to Kennedy who dived to his left to keep out a ten yard finish from striker Sam Madeley, who had hurt Matlock for Glossop North End in the Derbyshire Senior Cup in December with two goals.
But Matlock made the breakthrough on 20 minutes through DARYLL THOMAS who latched on to a pass from Liam Needham from a hanging Micky Harcourt cross. Thomas scored with a precise low diagonal drive from the left, low into the opposite corner.
That goal unfortunately from the Matlock viewpoint, failed to ignite the hosts and a midfield struggle followed. Thomas shot high over the bar and then Madeley fired high and wide from distance for the visitors who were denied again by Kennedy on 34 minutes, A free kick was nodded down by Danny Meadowcroft to Lloyd Dean whose effort was brilliantly kept out by Kennedy.
Matlock lost Thomas to injury at the interval and it was clear they needed a second goal and it came from the penalty spot nine minutes after the interval. Tuton was felled by Dootson and DANNY HOLLAND calmly stroked home from twelve yards. A more blatant looking penalty was denied Matlock four minutes later when Tuton was fouled by Jonathan Lynch as the Gladiators looked to put the game to bed.
The welcome sight of Adam Yates back in the fold brought cheers from the crowd when he replaced Martin Foster with just under twenty minutes left. Four minutes later Tuton should have been on the scoresheet when he burst through the Bloods rearguard but with only Dootson to beat, he placed his shot disappointingly wide. Then late on Holland screwed wide from close range as the Gladiators should really have added to their tally.
Positives from the game apart from the three points were the return of Yates, and a fourth successive clean sheet at home. The achilles heel of not taking chances though is still there. On this showing Droylsden will add to their points tally before the end of the season, they worked hard and certainly made life difficult for Matlock.
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Jon Kennedy 2 Micky Harcourt 3 Joe Leesley 4 Martin Foster (15 Adam Yates 71) 5 David Haggerty 6 Oscar Radford 7 Liam Needham 8 James Ashmore (14 Lavell White 80) 9 Danny Holland 10 Daryll Thomas (12 Corey Gregory 46) 11 Shaun Tuton. Other subs: 17 Matty Leese.
DROYLSDEN: 1 Craig Dootson 2 Ben McNamara 3 Jonathan Lynch 4 Ged Murphy 5 Danny Meadowcroft 6 Ben Hampson (14 Sam Freakes 71) 7 Luke Sharry 8 Jake Parker 9 Sam Madeley 10 Domaine Rouse 11 Lloyd Dean Other subs: 12 James Ogoo 15 Daniel McLoughlin 16 Matthew German 17 Lewis Fielding.
REFEREE: L Watson (Barnsley). ATTENDANCE: 256. BEST GLADIATOR: Liam Needham.