Matlock Town 4
Ben Algar 18, 67
Ian Holmes 64
TJ Nightingale 84
Stocksbridge Park Steels 0
Matlock Town: Jon Kennedy, Micky Harcourt, Oscar Radford, Liam King, (James Knowles 84), Adam Yates, James Lukic, Chris Bettney (Gareth Davies 68), Steve Warne, Ian Holmes, Nathan Joynes (TJ Nightingale 71), Ben Algar. Subs not used: Kris Bowler, Nick Buxton
Referee: Ian Smedley (Derby)
Star man: Ben Algar
Matlock hammered a poor Steels outfit who, apart from a 15-minute period early in the second half, were outgunned all over the park by a slick passing Gladiators outfit, writes Ian Richardson.
On the evidence of Wednesday’s annihilation at the Reynolds Stadium, Matlock look like play-off contenders, while Stocksbridge, deep in relegation trouble, look a good bet to go down.
A double from Ben Algar, plus strikes from top scorer Ian Holmes and substitute TJ Nightingale made up the four-goal tally which quite easily could have been six or seven.
The horses for courses theory in Mark Atkins’s team selection and formation saw a different line-up, and a change from 4-5-1 at Northwich to a 4-4-2 with two wingers.
Micky Harcourt, Chris Bettney and Nathan Joynes all made starts after missing out at the Victoria Stadium as Kris Bowler, Ben Hunter and James Knowles all dropped out.
In driving rain, Matlock nearly made a dream start. Algar immediately ran at a pedestrian looking defence after being found by Joynes, whose link-up play was top class. The winger’s hoisted cross was knocked away for a corner with Bettney closing in.
Very quickly afterwards came an opportunity for Holmes when Bettney’s cross broke for him in the box, but Steels’ goalkeeper Ben Scott pulled off a tremendous point-blank save, this all within the first couple of minutes.
Urged on by Oscar Radford’s personal fan club, in fancy dress, who had travelled down from Doncaster, Matlock remained on the front foot. Good flowing moves saw Liam King have a shot charged down and a second attempt easily clear the bar. A Bettney free-kick drifted wide before Radford, always keen to supplement the threat from Algar on the left, drove firmly at goal, only to see the ball skim a Stocksbridge defender.
Steels’ first attack of note saw Jack Muldoon fire harmlessly wide after the ball seemed to get stuck under James Lukic’s boot as he attempted to clear. But it was soon normal service resumed as Bettney’s low cross was just out of Joynes’s radar.
The breakthrough, when it came on 18 minutes, was well worth the wait. Algar cut in from the left, leaving Steels defenders in his wake to fire a right-footed 20-yarder which flew over Scott and into the opposite top corner. It was a wonderful strike.
Steels won their first corner in the 23rd minute, and when the ball was played back in, a weak header from giant centre back Brett Lovell was meat and drink for Jon Kennedy.
Ten minutes later King again blasted too high after typical persistence from Harcourt near the right hand corner flag, with a pretty much one-sided half ending with Joynes turning neatly on a Bettney pass to shoot inches over from nearly 30 yards out.
There was perhaps a tinge of disappointment in the home camp that the lead was just a single goal. That could have been remedied in the opening 20 seconds of the second half. Algar robbed Chris Glarvey deep in the visitors half, Scott was in panic and scuffed a clearance straight to Holmes. The goalkeeper redeeemed himself by turning aside Holmes’ instant shot. Then Algar headed a Harcourt centre back across goal but Joynes could not finish off.
Steels then had their one decent spell and so very nearly equalised on 51 minutes when Brian Cusworth’s first time shot from a right wing cross beat Kennedy and rebounded off the bar. The visitors sensed that Matlock had dropped off the pace but that didn’t last long.
Holmes latched on to an Algar pass and was thwarted by a questionable offside decision. But on 64 minutes, he was allowed to continue as King’s pass left him clear. This time he did look offside, but he showed no mercy as a confident strike with the outside of his boot found the bottom far corner with deadly precision.
Two became three six minutes afterwards as Algar’s well hit low shot from 15 yards struck Scott and the combination of its ferocity plus the skiddy surface saw the ball hit the net to end any remote chance the Yorkshiremen had of snatching an unlikely point.
Algar wanted his first Matlock hat-trick. He saw a chance arrive as another surge inside, this time from the right, ended with his shot hitting a defender and bouncing behind. Steve Warne’s 20-yard daisycutter beat Scott and his right hand post by a whisker, but a fourth goal arrived with seven minutes to go.
Nightingale began the move on the left with a simple pass to Holmes, who ran on to cross low for his strike partner. After an initial stumble and miskick, Nightingale somehow scrambled the ball home. It was a scruffy finish, but they all count.
James Knowles headed Algar’s ball back across goal and Gareth Davies’s free kick curled just too high.
Stocksbridge’s miserable night was summed up in stoppage time when Mark Ward ballooned a penalty high over the bar after Adam Yates had brought down Andy Ring.
Matlock jump up to seventh. They had played well and were able to reflect on a job well done.