Early goals crucial as in-form Gladiators add to unbeaten run

This goalmouth scramble ended with Matlock taking the lead through Craig King. His shot squeezes through the crowd of players.
This goalmouth scramble ended with Matlock taking the lead through Craig King. His shot squeezes through the crowd of players.

Matlock Town extended their unbeaten league run to nine matches with a hard-fought 2-1 win over a battling Bamber Bridge.

Goals from Craig King and Nathan Whitehead had put Matlock in firm control with a two-goal lead at half-time.

But after King twice went close early in the second half, a flicked header from Alistair Waddecar at a 61st minute free kick put the visitors back in the game.

The visitors sensed what at half-time was an unlikely point, but Matlock held out for a third successive victory.

Bamber Bridge had made a positive start with Waddecar firing a 25-yard free kick over the bar in the third minute before home keeper Ross Durrant made a fine save from Waddecar from 12 yards.

The visitors packed their penalty box to repel good Matlock retaliatory pressure and keeper Danny Roccia was forced to backpedal to tip a teasing Taron Hare cross over.

But Matlock went in front in the 12th minute as Dwayne Wiley retrieved an overhit corner to feed Jordan Chapell on the right. His cross was not claimed by Roccia and King knocked home the loose ball at the back post.

Roccia held shots from both Luke Hinsley and Chapell, but Town doubled their lead on 19 minutes with King this time the provider.

King’s accurate ball in from the right found Whitehead, who confidently stroked a low shot home from 12 yards.

After their bright opening, Brig were now looking down the barrel of a heavy defeat.

It needed a good block by Roccia to keep out Hinsley’s shot after intricate footwork and a brilliant but simple pass from Hollingsworth had created the chance.

Matlock defended well to prevent Bamber from having a shooting chance soon afterwards, but the visitors were fortunate not to be further in arrears when Craig Westcarr struck the woodwork and the Gladiators had a goal disallowed.

Roccia failed to gather Hollingsworth’s header and Hinsley forced home the loose ball, but he was ruled to be offside.

The visitors rode their luck again early in the second half. Westcarr found King after being impeded, only for King to lift his shot over both Roccia and the bar.

Then an audacious chip from King beat Roccia but struck the angle of post and bar, following neat approach play from Hare and Westcarr.

Waddecarr halved the Matlock lead and then went wide with a header.

Westcarr was crowded out by a mixture of Roccia and a defender and Durrant made a marvellous punch to relieve late visiting pressure as both sides created chances late on.

But Matlock hung on for a narrow Evo-Stik League victory.