Lack of cutting edge means third successive game without a goal
Matlock earned a well-deserved and hard-earned point from a physical and direct encounter when they made their first ever visit to Barwell on Saturday.
On a day when quality attacking play was sparse in blustery conditions and on a dry, bumpy surface, Matlock will be pleased with the clean sheet but disappointed that they failed to score for a third successive league game. That was due to a lack of a cutting edge in the final third.
The Gladiators were down to the bare bones with a couple of late problems which saw them only able to name three substitutes, and having little time to draft in replacements from the under 19 squad. Oscar Radford returned to the back four, replacing midfielder Martin Foster with Corey Gregory being given a chance to impress in the engine room.
Barwell, needing the points to stave off any relegation worries, nearly made a dream start from Matlock’s one piece of shoddy defending. Luke Barlone found himself well positioned some 15 yards out but drove wide with only Jon Kennedy to beat.
That escape came in the in the second minute and in the third, Joe Leesley worryingly went down in a heap but after treatment was able to continue. Leesley went on to have a great game, as did the rest of the Gladiators back four against a direct Barwell approach.
Barwell had the better of the opening half, unleashing a series of massive long throws into the heart of the Matlock penalty box. But Matlock would not buckle, it was a no nonsense performance at the back and the clean sheet was deserved.
It was at the other end where Matlock might have done better. Daryll Thomas looks low on confidence and a wild swipe at a Danny Holland low cross when he completely missed the ball, kicking thin air, seemed to sum his current problems up.
James Ashmore provided Matlock’s best attacking moment of the first-half when on 31 minutes he volleyed narrowly wide from 25 yards.
A minute later Barwell responded and Connor Gudger slipped his shot wide as Kennedy advanced.
The scrappiness continued with Jack Edwards stretching to lift a shot too high.
At the start of the second-half Kennedy was off his line quickly to save after a back header from Holland, the centre forward back defending a set piece.
Matlock had a decent spell of pressure but failed to make it count, either through a faulty final pass or a dubious offside flag, as Lavell White was twice pulled up when he seemed to be behind the final defender.
Shots from Liam Needham and substitute Martin Foster drifted harmlessly wide, before Radford released a long throw and Yates nodded on but Holland’s header was blocked on the line.
Gregory stretched to push a shot too high from a flicked on free-kick before Holland could only roll a gentle strike towards goalkeeper Liam Castle when well placed with six minutes left.
Matlock continued to defend stoutly as Barwell made a late bid to snatch the extra two points. Centre-back Jamie Hood rifled a shot over the bar after a scramble and Kennedy comfortably held a low effort from substitute Ben Love, a draw ultimately the fair result.
BARWELL: 1 Liam Castle 2 Scott Lower, 3 Tony Capaldi 4 Matthew Preston 5 Jamie Hood 6 Richard Lavery 7 Jack Edwards 8 Scott Hadland (16 Ben Love 78) 9 Luke Barlone 10 Daniel Griffiths ( 14 Nigel Julien 73) 11 Connor Gudger ( 17 Thomas Weale 73) Otheer subs: 12 Guy Hadland 15 Kieron Brehon
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Jon Kennedy 2 Micky Harcourt 3 Joe Leesley 4 Corey Gregory 5 Oscar Radford 6 Adam Yates 7 Liam Needham 8 James Ashmore 9 Danny Holland 10 Daryll Thomas ( 12 Martin Foster 61) 11 Lavell White Other subs: 14 Alex Bradshaw 17 Matty Leese
REFEREE: M Wilkes (Stourbridge) ATTENDANCE: 157 BEST GLADIATOR: Joe Leesley