A well taken Marcus Dinanga hat-trick capped a fine Matlock team performance, easily the best in the Kirkwood and Hopkins era as in form Stourbridge, seeking a fifth successive league and cup win, were well beaten at the DCJ Group Insurance Arena.
After a scoreless opening half the Gladiators took firm control wasting little time in drawing first blood with a goal inside two minutes of the restart.
Then it was almost relentless Matlock pressure with Dinanga adding a second midway through the half and completing his treble from the penalty spot shortly afterwards.
All Stourbridge had to show for a miserable afternoon was Brandon Hague’s late consolation effort on a day when they had been out-thought, outfought and outplayed.
Dinanga will grab the headlines and deservedly so, but there were ten more stars wearing Gladiators colours.
Dwayne Wiley, partnering Adam Yates in the centre of the defence was strong and steadfast while Jake Green, slotting in at left back, put in a faultless performance.
The central midfield pairing of Joe Doyle-Charles and Michael Williams were busy and dominant, constantly being a supply line for the dangerous flank men of Niall McManus and Ted Cribley. Goalkeeper Phil Barnes on his debut after injury, exuded confidence with impeccable handling and a constant stream of advice to those protecting him.
Stourbridge actually started off the better but Matlock improved as the game wore on. Barnes held an early header from Joe Hull before catching a teasing cross close to the far post but then Matlock settled.
A good 20th minute break by Cribley saw him shoot directly at goalkeeper Matt Gould before Hull was booked for a poor challenge on Williams a minute later.
Williams would then win a great tackle 30 yards from goal to feed McManus who drove across the face of the goal. Williams came even closer with a ferocious daisycutter that flashed inches wide.
Hull was fortunate not to collect a second yellow card for another foul on Williams before the Gladiators ended the half on top, Doyle-Charles shooting a yard too high from the edge of the box.
The momentum built up in the opening half was carried over into the second period. Dinanga’s opener was a cracker, Cribley finding the Burton loanee twenty two yards out to deliver a precision finish to comprehensively beat Gould.
Matthew Dodd, although looking suspiciously offside, threatened to cut short Matlock’s celebrations almost instantly but Liam Marsden’s magnificent interception saw the hosts breathe more easily again.
Matlock then turned the screw with Gould doing well to cut out a dangerous McManus cross before holding a Cribley effort. A second goal deservedly came when Dinanga outpaced Hull from Barnes’ long punt forward to slot a comfortable finish past Gould in the 67th minute.
Dinanga was booked for delaying a free kick but soon completed his hat-trick on 74 minutes, blasting home from the spot and sending Gould the wrong way following handball by Brian Smikle.
Green was given a great ovation when he hobbled off seven minutes from time and Dinanga an even bigger one when Nicky Travis replaced him late on.
A clean sheet would have made it a perfect day for Matlock but Hague nipped in to stroke in an easy but scant consolation goal after hesitancy between Barnes and Yates. Brad Birch completed the trio of bookings late on.
The crowds will surely return with more performances like these.
Matlock: Barnes, Marsden, Green (de Girolamo 83), Doyle-Charles, Yates, Wiley, McManus, Williams, Newsham, Dinanga (Travis 89), Cribley.
Subs not used: Griffiths-Junior, Yates, Jameson.
Referee: I Johnston (Leeds). Attendance: 278.
Best Gladiator: Marcus Dinanga.