Gladiators endure an opening day nightmare

Matlock midfielder Kris Bowler tries to make progress during the clash with Nantwich on Saturday.
Matlock midfielder Kris Bowler tries to make progress during the clash with Nantwich on Saturday.

Evo-Stik Premier Division

Matlock Town 0

Nantwich Town 5

by Ian Richardson

Matlock served up an opening day horror show as they went down to their heaviest ever first day home defeat in the Northern Premier League.

After some uplifting displays in pre-season, Matlock faltered badly when it mattered the most, and there were certainly precious few positives to take from a performance when they were comfortably second best all over the park.

The Gladiators brought in central defender Luke Foster from Sheffield United on Friday night with Laurence Gaughan injured and captain James Lukic suspended. He was one of five debutants in the Gladiators starting line up.

Nantwich, attacking the cricket end, went on the attack from the first whistle as Kyle Wilson crossed from the right and Lewis Short glanced wide at the back post under pressure from Micky Harcourt with just 30 seconds played.

Bradley Grayson’s pace was always a great outlet for Matlock and he had the chance of a shot when well placed in the fourth minute, but passed and the move broke down.

Foster then drove too high before Nantwich countered as Casper Hughes and Fraser McClachlan both had shots charged down.

But they took a 16th minute lead while Matlock were down to ten men as Micky Harcourt was being treated for a foot injury on the touchline, Wilson finding room in the penalty box to beat Jon Kennedy with a clinical angled drive.

Harcourt came back on but was soon forced off for good with Lee Featherstone taking his place.

Lewis McMahon nodded a Phil Roe free-kick at goalkeeper Jon Brain but there was little sign of a Matlock equaliser.

The hosts’ predicament worsened on 35 minutes with Nantwich benefiting from a huge slice of good luck as Short’s shot struck Mark Beesley who knew absolutely nothing about it, the ball changing direction to beat a stranded Kennedy.

Lee Ellington flicked a Kris Bowler cross wide as half time approached, the interval seeing Bowler withdrawn and young Joe Leesley entering the fray.

McMahon drove narrowly wide from 20 yards in the 48th minute, and Matlock’s best effort came on 55 minutes when Brain pulled off a flying save from an Ellington header. Leesley cut in to fire wide shortly afterwards but from then on Matlock simply caved in.

Wilson turned Luke Foster inside out to thread in Nantwich’s third goal in the 65th minute and two more goals quickly followed.

On 71, a once in a lifetime goal from Shaun Cooke, who beat Kennedy with a lob from just inside the Matlock half brought more misery for the homesters which was completed just four minutes later as Nantwich cut through the brittle Matlock defence for substitute Will Jones to convert from close range and round things off and end a Matlock performance that was careless, laboured and lacking drive.

Matlock: Kennedy, Harcourt (Featherstone 20), Roe, M Foster, Yates, L Foster, Grayson, Ashmore, Ellington, McMahon (Algar 58), Bowler (Leesley 46)

Other subs: Hindley, Buxton

Ref: S Eagland (Lichfield) Att: 293 Star Man: Bradley Graysn.