Red card and defensive lapses prove to be costly

Micky Harcourt, Matlock Town
Micky Harcourt, Matlock Town
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MATLOCK TOWN 2

STAFFORD RANGERS 3

Poor defending and a 29th minute sending off for Micky Harcourt cost Matlock dearly as Stafford took home all three points with Matlock wasting a great opportunity of making ground up the league table.

This was Matlock’s third league defeat on the trot and it was self inflicted.

Having got back into the game just two minutes before Harcourt’s dismissal, they were in the ascendancy but that went when Harcourt headed for the changing room.

The Gladiators full back had gone down in the Rangers penalty box under the challenge of Oliver Davies. Referee Bingham decided to book him for simulation, a decision that angered Harcourt to the extent that several choice words were directed at the official, plus allegedly a ‘V’ sign.

The yellow card swiftly changed colour to a red and while the referee’s overall performance left a lot to be desired, Harcourt should really have held his emotions in check.

Matlock missed the calming influence of skipper James Lukic, who had his arm in a sling, and they were punished for poor marking when Rangers went ahead on 11 minutes.

Sean Kinsella’s corner was headed back out to him on the left and from the resulting centre Jimmy Turner found room to score with a downward header.

Soon afterwards former Mickleover striker Karl Ashton, who interested Matlock boss Mark Atkins earlier in the season, burst through to force Jon Kennedy into a fine block save but gradually Matlock started to settle and were rewarded on 27 minutes. A harcourt free kick was not properly cleared and Glyn Cotton and Massiah McDonald kept the move going for Oscar Radford to sweep a low effort beyond Adam Alcock from McDonald’s lay off.

But then came the game’s flashpoint which handed the initiative to Stafford, but not immediately.

Matlock went in front three minutes after the break with McDonald and Cotton again involved. McDonald surged through the heart of the Rangers defence to feed Cotton whose shot was parried by Alcock. McDonald’s strength held off Liam Walshe from the rebound and the supporting Phil Roe drove low past Alcock.

But Matlock could not build on this advantage as they dropped deeper and deeper, struggling to hold on to possession. Rangers boss Greg Clowes played his trump card in bringing on his top scorer Danny Quinn with just over a third of the contest remaining.

Quinn had only been on the field for six minutes when he stabbed in a cross from the right by full back Turner with the Matlock defenders being slow to react to the danger. Rangers held the upper hand as Matlock constantly gave the ball away and they might have scored again soon after the equaliser when Fabrice Kasiama tried his luck from distance but Kennedy got a great and vital touch to divert the ball over the bar.

But Quinn ensured that maximum points were on their way back to Marston Road when again, he was alive to a chance which came when he forced the ball home after the Gladiators defence had charged down Ashton’s shot.

Quinn went looking for a hat-trick and nearly got it as Kennedy again did well to tip his shot over.

In a late but ultimately vain attempt to salvage a point, James Ashmore’s stinging shot from twenty five yards was clawed to safety at full stretch by Alcock.

MATLOCK TOWN: 1. Jon Kennedy 2 Micky Harcourt 3 Phil Roe 4 Glyn Cotton (Martin Foster 56), Adam Yates 6 Oscar Radford 7 Joe Leesley (Laurence Gaughan 76), 8 James Ashmore 9 Massiah McDonald 10 Lewis McMahon 11 Gareth Davies (Bradley Grayson 90) other subs: Anthony Griffiths-Junior Nick Buxton

REFEREE: M Bingham--Leamington Spa ATTENDANCE: 307 STAR MAN: James Ashmore