Michael Williams’ 31st minute free kick sealed a comfortable yet scruffy 1-0 victory for Matlock Town victory away to out-of-form Marine on Saturday.
In contrast the Gladiators are in a rich vein of form, sitting at the top of the current form table covering the last 10 league games, a sequence of six wins, two draws and two defeats.
While pleased with the result, joint boss Glenn Kirkwood added: “We didn’t play very well.”
True, Matlock did not produce the flowing attractive football of recent weeks, but they still did enough to deserve the points.
Ted Cribley replaced Curtis Morrison in the only change to the line up which returned from Halesowen with a midweek 3-0 victory.
Marine, desperate to halt a run of form which had seen them lose their previous three league matches, began on the offensive, Gladiators goalkeeper Phil Barnes having to advance to the edge of his box to head clear inside the opening minute.
Then Barnes did well to tip a Kurt Sherlock header over the bar from Warren Bellew’s left wing cross.
Marcus Dinanga needed treatment in a worrying moment after a challenge on the by-line, but recovered to show some excellent footwork to set up Williams who drove harmlessly wide in the ninth minute.
Joe Doyle-Charles was in his element in a physical environment, constantly shutting down the opposition and making vital interceptions, being fouled as he headed away a free kick which threatened danger for the Matlock back four.
Then Matlock began to dominate the possession, but the ball would not fall conveniently for them in the box.
Liam Goulding was the first of seven bookings handed out by a less than convincing referee Darren Rogers, for bringing down Niall McManus and it led to the decisive goal as Williams stepped up to plant a delicious strike into the top corner, despite home custodian Calvin Hare managing to get a glove on the ball.
The joy could have been short-lived as a chance fell to Danny Mitchley, but Barnes was down quickly to his right to hold the striker’s low shot.
But for the rest of the half, Matlock looked to add to their lead.
McManus picked up the second ball after Williams had been denied by a good challenge by Ryan O’Hare, his centre flashing across the face of goal without a touch from a visiting forward, much to the Mariners’ relief.
It should have been 2-0, though, two minutes before the break as Cribley’s pass released Marc Newsham, who screwed his shot tamely wide with only Hare to beat.
Cribley was then tremendously unlucky not to score six minutes into the second half following one of his trademark breaks from the left, cutting in to curl a shot past Hare, who was rooted to the spot but saved by his left hand post, McManus blasting the loose ball over the bar.
Joe Mwsasile fired well wide as Marine struggled to make any impact on a determined Matlock side who defended well as a unit when they needed to.
Williams powered in a 60th minute header which narrowly cleared the bar as Matlock always looked the more likely side to score.
The visitors defended two corners efficiently in a brief spell of pressure from the hosts, and when they won a free kick on 67 minutes, Billy Smart was always stretching as his header dropped wide.
But this came after another Matlock chance as Williams turned smartly and shot powerfully but narrowly over the bar.
Dinanga broke at pace but held on to the ball too long before being crowded out.
But his pace was clearly a worry for home manager Sean Hessey who brought himself on with seven minutes left and behind the referee’s back, dragged his studs down the back of Dinanga’s legs.
Hessey was booked for showing an aggressive attitude, but Matlock felt he should have been shown a red card.
Hessey was booed by the Matlock fans every time he touched the ball and the hosts might have conceded a second goal when Jake Green did well to win possession midway inside the Mariners’ half to advance goalwards, his shot being well saved by Hare.
Substitute Morrison shot wide when well placed before, in what seemed an age of stoppage time, Matlock comfortably saw out the game, Barnes dropping on a Michael Monaghan free kick to his right that needed to be better struck to beat a goalkeeper of Barnes’ quality.
There was to be no dramatic collapse by Matlock like there had been back in February on this ground when Marine scored twice in time added on to overturn a one goal deficit and snatch victory.
Matlock’s goal was rarely threatened in what was a disappointing second half from the hosts.
The Gladiators’ win was based on hard work and application, everyone seemingly knowing their jobs.
For once that extra quality was lacking, but on the day, Matlock still won with something to spare.
MARINE: Calvin Hare, Josh Brizell (Michael Monaghan 67), James Short, Liam Goulding, Ryan O’Hare (Sean Hessey 83), Adam Hughes, Warren Bellew (Obi Anoruo 88), Billy Smart, Danny Mitchley, Kurt Sherlocl, Joe Mwasile. Subs not used: Chad White, Karl Clair.
MATLOCK TOWN: Phil Barnes, Liam Marsden, Jake Green, Joe Doyle-Charles, Adam Yates, Nico de Girolamo, Niall McManus (Jamie Yates 83), Michael Williams, Marc Newsham (Curtis Morrison 67), Marcus Dinanga (Alex Pursehouse 90), Ted Cribley. Subs not used: Dwayne Wiley, Ben Edgson.
REFEREE: D. Rogers of Warrington.
GLADIATORS’ MAN OF THE MATCH: Joe Doyle-Charles.