The good news came early and late for Matlock Town fans as their side arrested their five game losing sequence with a much needed derby victory over Mickleover Sports on Tuesday night, writes Ian Richardson
The welcome sight of goalkeeper Phil Barnes, out of retirement and warming up in the green number one shirt, was the first massive boost and the night was complete when Shaun Harrad netted the winner 17 minutes from time to settle the contest.
Barnes was a calming influence, marshalling the back four with authority and although he was not called upon to make a difficult save all that often, it was easy to see the confidence which rippled through the Matlock side with their number one behind them.
Both sides had key personnel missing. Ryan Wilson, Michael Williams, Marc Newsham and Ted Cribley, all who would most likely have started, were all out through injury for Matlock, Sports being without former Matlock pair Tom Burgin and Bradley Grayson, plus dangerous winger Andy Dales.
Pouring rain greeted the teams as an absorbing battle got under way. Luis Rose was prominent for Matlock early on and Harrad shot whistled inches past the post.
But the 13th minute should have proved lucky for Matlock when Rose was again the provider. Having switched to the left flank, an inch perfect crossfield pass left Harrad clear with only former Town custodian Lewis King to beat. But Harrad slid his shot wide and a great chance to settle the nerves had gone.
Rose planted a first timer on to the roof of the net from distance before there was a warning for Matlock as Zeph Thomas escaped on the left with Matlock looking for the offside flag to pull a shot narrowly wide of the back post.
King, Joe Doyle-Charles and Green all had efforts but the half ended scoreless as Barnes comfortably clutched a low shot from Evan Garnett, Thomas then escaping with a talking to for a bookable challenge on Rose.
Barnes at last was extended in the 54th minute as he got down brilliantly to block a piledriver from Turner, Matlock breaking at pace immediately as Rhys Sharpe delayed his shot with King badly out of position for his shot to strike yet another ex Matlockian, Kevin Grocott.
King came charging out of his area to seemingly handle, the referee appearing to blow his whistle and then wave play on after looking at his assistant.
Mickleover looked the more likely side at this point, playing some attractive football but Matlock were dogged and determined as they stood their ground.
Then the Gladiators grabbed the all important winner, Mickleover not clearing their lines and Harrad cleverly slipped the ball between King’s legs to the delight of the home support.
Two minutes later Harrad slid a difficult chance from a Sharpe centre narrowly wide and had a fantastic opportunity to double the lead with six minutes left.
Again Town broke swiftly, Tyler Blake looking up to feed Harrad who pushed his shot narrowly wide with only King in front of him.
Mickleover responded strongly but Matlock again defended with authority, Barnes not being troubled despite the pressure.
The final talking point was when Adam Yates went down after an off the ball clash with substitute Clinton Morrison three minutes from time. Matlock were awarded a free kick but there would be no punishment for Morrison, a decision which again had Matlock fans roaring with disapproval.
MATLOCK TOWN: Barnes, Degirolamo, Green, Doyle-Charles, Yates, Wiley, Rose, Lloyd, Harrad, Blake, Sharpe. Subs-none used: Cotterill, Flint, Yates, Wood, Hawkins.
REFEREE: R Hathaway (Tamworth). ATTENDANCE: 315. BEST GLADIATOR: Nico Degirolamo.