Two former favourites played integral parts in destroying Matlock Town’s hopes of maintaining their unbeaten start to the season at Gainsborough Trinity on Bank Holiday Monday afternoon.
Ross Hannah and Trinity skipper Liam King were both on the scoresheet in an entertaining game that ended in a 4-2 defeat for Matlock.
Both defences looked far from secure, but the Gladiators have looked vulnerable under pressure in both of their away games so far and need to defend better as a team.
They looked too open and required a leader to see them through the periods of pressure, badly missing the organisational skills of captain Adam Yates, who was out with a knee injury.
Gainsborough had an early chance to go in front when goalkeeper Richard Walton lost a right-wing cross and as they maintained their momentum, Walton made amends with a smart save from Damien Reeves.
Michael Williams was thwarted as a half-chance came his way and Dwayne Wiley headed comfortably wide before, with still less than ten minutes gone, Alex Byrne shot across the face of goal for the Holy Blues and Reeves shot too high from distance.
Walton spectacularly fingertipped Byrne’s strike over the bar before a save of equal standing from Jon Stewart in the home goal saw him tip a Shaun Harrad header on to a post.
A goal had to come and two arrived in two minutes, one at either end. First, Reeves was on the end of a Byrne cross to loop a header over Walton in the 25th minute, and then the Gladiators struck back when Jake Green broke forward on the right for a shot that beat Stewart with the aid of a deflection.
Both sides were battling hard, but it was Hannah who restored the Holy Blues’ lead after 36 minutes. Neat interplay on the edge of the penalty box saw Matlock’s current record holder for goals scored in a season calmly fire past Walton from 12 yards.
Walton held a long-range strike by Byrne before Wiley hacked clear when an Alex Simmons shot was too hot to handle and a trademark Hannah shot flashed wide to bring the half to an end.
Matlock had a terrific chance to equalise on 53 minutes when Stewart pushed out a Williams shot as far as Harrad. He could only fire the loose ball against the goalkeeper, who then needed two attempts to grab substitute Charlie Dawes’s low shot.
Wiley was again alert to mop up as Gainsborough broke at pace, but Matlock produced a second leveller in the 68th minute when Walton’s inch-perfect long pass found Williams, who instantly crossed for Harrad to knock home from close range.
The game looked to have swung towards Matlock, but Gainsborough found an extra gear to score two more quickfire goals and confirm a victory that took them to the top of the table.
The first came on 77 when the Gladiators conceded a needless free-kick out on the right, from where Byrne delivered the ball into the danger box and Shane Clarke shot low into the corner.
Any hope Matlock had of recovering a point was dashed two minutes later when King thrust himself at a left-wing cross to emphatically convert.
MATLOCK TOWN LINE-UP -- 1 Richard Walton 2 Jake Green 3 Alex Hurst 4 Adam Smith (12 Harry Vince 73) 5 Dwayne Wiley 6 Jake Phillips 7 Jordan Chapell (15 Ted Cribley 56) 8 Marcus Marshall 9 Shaun Harrad 10 Michael Williams 11 Kieren Watson (16 Charlie Dawes 56) Other subs: 14 Jamie Jackson 17 Ashton Hall.
Attendance: 626. Man-of-the-match: Shaun Harrad.