by Ian Richardson
Evo-Stik League Premier Division
Saturday, April 23, 2011
Matlock Town 1
James Lukic 46
FC United of Manchester 2
Matthew Wolfenden 38
Jerome Wright 53
Matlock Town: Nick Buxton, Ben Turner, Lee Featherstone, Liam King, Adam Yates, James Lukic, Gareth Davies, Steve Warne (Kris Bowler 85), John McAliskey (James Knowles 46), Ross Hannah, Ryan Mallon (Paul Sykes 65) Other sub: Kris Witcombe
Referee: S P Bennett (Stoke-on-Trent)
Star man: Gareth Davies
Matlock’s home campaign finished with a disappointing defeat to second-in-the-table FC United who claimed their place in the play-offs.
Their win was all the more remarkable as they were forced to play striker Ben Deegan in goal for the entire contest with regular goalkeeper Sam Ashton suspended and his deputy Grant Shenton at a wedding.
And with Town striker Ross Hannah hungry to beat Bobby Mountain’s club goals record, they would have entered the fray with a touch of trepidation.
But Hannah had a quiet day, down in no small measure to United defender Scott McManus who kept a tight rein on him.
Hannah and Matlock scarcely tested Deegan and United’s vast and impeccably behaved travelling support were able to celebrate their play-off slot in the hot April sunshine.
Matlock forced a first-minute corner through Steve Warne’s dash forward and then Deegan blocked from Hannah, but the goalkeeper would have little else to do for the rest of the afternoon.
United’s first threat came on 11 minutes when a McManus shot was deflected over the bar for a corner, from which it needed a tremendous Gareth Davies header to avert danger.
Davies was to repeat this shortly afterwards as United forced another corner and were starting to look more of a force. Nick Buxton pulled off a terrific save from Matthew Tierney but had the shot gone in it would not have counted as the referee had already spotted an infringement.
Buxton was then in the right spot to claim an overhead effort from Matthew Wolfenden but in the 38th minute it was Wolfenden who broke the deadlock.
A fiercely-struck Tierney shot reared up at the diving Buxton, who managed to parry it but the ball fell to the winger who drove home the rebound.
Matlock then won a free kick some 30 yards out but Hannah pulled his shot well wide.
James Knowles came on for John McAliskey at the interval and with less than a minute gone, the Gladiators equalised. Hannah floated in a free-kick and nobody tracked James Lukic, who headed convincingly past Deegan.
Another free-kick saw Adam Yates head too high and when Hannah was allowed to continue from a Knowles flick, he lobbed over both Deegan and the bar.
That was his best and only chance to beat the record on the day.
But then, on 53 minutes, a rare Lukic error gifted United the lead when he was dispossessed by Jerome Wright as he tried to find Ben Turner. Wright had a clear path to goal and kept calm and collected to slot a precision finish home.
Deegan’s only scare came when he flapped at a Warne shot but Matlock did not do enough to produce a fightback.
United worked hard in the heat and were in no mood to relinquish their advantage. Matlock sent on Paul Sykes in an attacking role and towards the end Lukic moved forward, but it made no difference.