Matlock Town end the season on a high at Ramsbottom United

Matlock Town's Niall McManus
Matlock Town's Niall McManus

Niall McManus struck in the 38th minute to cap a man of the match performance to earn Matlock all three points from their final league match of the season at Ramsbottom on Saturday.

With both teams safe, this was a dead rubber but to their credit, Matlock took the game by the scruff of the neck to almost totally dominate the opening half, and although the second period was a more even contest, Matlock always looked comfortable and deserved their maximum points haul.

Manager Mark Hume gave young Liam Gaughan a rare start on the right of the midfield with Ted Cribley supporting Jamie McDonagh in attack as skipper Danny Holland was rested to the bench, possibly with the upcoming Derbyshire Senior Cup Final in mind. Josh Meade also started with Nicki Travis suspended.

Both sides started positively with McManus having an effort deflected narrowly wide following fine play on the right from Gaughan, who certainly did not look out of place following his promotion to the starting eleven.

But Ramsbottom broke quickly and Jon Robinson had a sight of goal which was quickly and superbly wiped out by a fine Adam Yates block, but apart from a speculative thirty five yarder from Kyle Harrop which Jon Kennedy comfortably held on 37 minutes, that would be the sum total of the home threat in the first forty five minutes.

Matlock took the game to their hosts and should have been comfortably ahead by the interval.

They were unfortunate on nine minutes when home goalkeeper Grant Shenton superbly tipped a Jamie McDonagh free kick on to the post and then survived an almighty goalmouth scramble as both Gaugfhan and Micky Harcourt worked grittily to try and forcee home the loose ball.

Then three minutes later Cribley made space for himself intelligently following a probing run but shot high and wide and McManus broke similarly only to be crowded out by the home defence.

McManus was on the end of another excellent move in the 22nd minute as the ball was passed on from Cribley to McDonagh and then Meade before McManus pulled the trigger only for Harrop to block his shot with another desperate intervention.

Another neat move began by Liam Needham saw the Town captain find McDonagh whose acrobatic cross from the right was narrowly outside the onrushing reach of Cribley and when Cribley forced Shenton into an error, the ball fell to Needham whose low drive was stabbed off the line by the covering George Bowyer.

A header from Yates was straight at Shenton from a 31 st minute corner but a goal simply had to come and it did, thanks to sheer persistence on Matlock’s part when in another scramble, Cribley and Gaughan both had shots blocked on the line but McManus made it third time lucky with a close range finish.

So Matlock were comfortably in the driving seat at half time, to their credit an outplayed Ramsbottom made a decent fight of it in the second half.

A free-kick from Lee Neville was held by Kennedy and Julian Banton and then Oscar Radford superbly blocked well struck shots from Lee Gaskell.

But Matlock were also dangerous when they counter attacked and McDonagh’s cross from the left was superbly cut out by Shenton with both substitute Danny Holland and Cribley waiting to convert. Then on 71 minutes McManus was a lick of paint away from his and a second Town goal, his rising strike crashing back off the bar with Shenton well beaten.

There was just one scare for Matlock before the end, and with a slender lead it might have been costly. Five minutes remained when midfielder David Koba-Kuba found space centrally twenty five yards out. For once, Matlock’s defensive work was lacking, but Kennedy was equal to the situation, producing a fine save from Koba Kuba’s shot to keep the clean sheet and the three points intact.

The last day win topped off a great end of season run of 11 points from five unbeaten games and led to a final 14th position. Town fans would have only dreamt wildly about that three months ago.

RAMSBOTTOM UTD: 1 Grant Shenton 2 Kyle Harrop 3 George Bowyer 4 Matthew Burke (14 Jamie Rother 75) 5 Mark Ayres 6 Alex Frost 7 Tom Williams ( 16 Luke Heron 67) 8 David Koba-Kuba 9 Jon Robinson (17 Luke Hartley 75) 10 Lee Gaskell 11 Lee Neville. Other subs: 12 Philip Edghill 15 Tom Brooks.

MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Jon Kennedy 2 Micky Harcourt 3 Oscar Radford 4 Josh Meade 5 Adam Yates 6 Julian Banton 7 Ted Cribley 8 Liam Needham (15 Danny Holland 67) 9 Jamie McDonagh 10 Liam Gaughan (14 Grant Black 81) 11 Niall McManus (12 Scott Maxfield 81). Other subs: 16 Mark Hume 17 Ryan Pugh.

REFEREE: Paul Hodskinson (Preston). ATTENDANCE: 200. BEST GLADIATOR: Niall McManus.