Retford United 0
Matlock Town 4
James Lukic 16
James Knowles 65
Ross Hannah 77
Anthony Wilson 87
Matlock Town: Adam Sollitt, Ben Turner (Kris Witcombe 46), Ben Algar, Liam King, Adam Yates, James Lukic, Lee Morris (Nathan Joynes 87), Steve Warne, Anthony Wilson, Ross Hannah, James Knowles (Dene Cropper 77) Other sub: Nick Buxton
Referee: W Grunnill – Hull
Star man: Liam King
Matlock ended their run of three successive league defeats by comfortably disposing of basement club Retford, who had goalkeeper Luke Herriott to thank for keeping the scoreline down.
James Lukic, James Knowles, Ross Hannah and Anthony Wilson found the target and Matlock could also afford the luxury of a missed penalty as Herriott kept out Hannah’s powerfully struck shot.
Retford had not registered a home win all season so a mudbath of a pitch and horrible conditions could have been a great leveller. But Matlock’s attitude was spot on and once they had gone in front, it was just a matter of how emphatic the victory would be.
Manager Mark Atkins opted for the same starting line-up which had knocked Barwell out of the League Cup in midweek, although there was a change on the bench as Nathan Joynes came in for James Naylor.
Matlock immediately poured forward and Retford’s defence was overworked in the early stages. Hannah broke free, only to be thwarted by a very late offside decision before his low effort flashed across goal. Herriott kept his side level with a brilliant save from Knowles and Liam King’s drive looked to be bound for the net until a desperate block by Matt Blake.
But Herriott was culpable as Matlock took a 16th minute lead, getting nowhere near a cross as Lukic scored with one of the easiest headers imaginable.
Then came Matlock’s one scary moment but Adam Sollitt was quickly out to narrow the angle and block Ryan Hindley’s shot. Normal service was quickly resumed as Knowles broke away to overhit his cross before Hannah’s tempting centre was only a whisker away from Lee Morris and Wilson.
Herriott, although at times excellent, did look vulnerable on occasions and why he chose to block Morris’s shot with his legs only he will know, but nevertheless it was an important and good stop. Morris went close again before Hannah was manhandled in the box by Blake, but was astounded to see the referee, who otherwise had a very decent game, wave play on.
Hannah shot wide when off balance and, with Matlock playing some excellent stuff on the floor Steve Warne looked set to double the lead only for Herriott to save.
Retford were pleased to reach the interval only a goal down so Matlock had to continue where they left off during the second period. The lead was slender but the gulf in class was huge.
Kris Witcombe replaced Ben Turner for a second half which saw no let-up in the tidal wave of pressure. King had two chances, the second of which produced another terrific Herriott save.
Knowles got the second goal in the 65th minute, a classy 20-yarder that had Herriott comprehensively beaten.
Six minutes later, Rob Austin fouled Hannah and this time Mr Grunnill did point to the spot.
Hannah’s spotkick was fierce but a little too central and Herriott produced an excellent block with his legs in full flight.
Hannah, though, would not be denied. After Retford centre back Nicky Ellis had headed wide, Algar broke at pace. His low cross could not have been better as Hannah slid in to convert from close range.
Wilson then added the goal of the game with three minutes left.
It was a joy to watch Matlock pass Retford to death and the on-loan striker gleefully drove it home.
So it was mission accomplished, a banana skin safely negotiated, and the charge for the play-offs is back on track.