Cecil Nyoni’s first Matlock goal earned his side a hard fought victory over high flying Worksop on New Years Day.
Nyoni rose to head in a 22nd minute free kick against his former employers to give Matlock only their second win in the league in ten matches - since Ilkeston were defeated by the same scoreline on October 26.
Worksop had scored a mammoth 80 goals in 26 league games prior to the visit to a rain-soaked Reynolds Stadium. The pitch survived two inspections before referee Tom Nield gave the go ahead.
Vice President and groundsman Dave Reynolds had worked magic to get the game on, and when hostilities in a feisty game began, there were heroes on the field of play as well.
Everyone in a blue shirt, plus goalkeeper Jon Kennedy in a lime green outfit, played their part, but manager Mark Atkins deserved praise for a master stroke in team selection which saw a 3-5-2 formation adopted.
David Haggerty was singled out to man mark giant centre forward Tom Denton and he played the role to perfection as Denton was kept quiet throughout. Micky Harcourt switched to a central defensive sweeping role and was exemplary alongside Oscar Radford.
Lewis McMahon was back in the fold, partnering Daryl Thomas in attack with Shaun Tuton out with a hamstring injury. McMahon nearly marked his return with a third minute goal, his shot being hacked clear after Tigers goalkeeper Jonathan Stewart had dived at Thomas’ feet.
Another chance came his way on 13 minutes when he nodded wide from a free kick which had been headed back across the box by Haggerty.
Nyoni had already signaled his intentions with some strong challenges, but Joe Leesley found his way into the referee’s notebook for a heavy tackle on Jack Adams from which Connor Higginson lifted his free kick over the bar.
Then Higginson himself was booked for a poor tackle on Martin Foster with McMahon joining him in the aftermath. But from that free kick Nyoni won the match.
Former Gladiator Phil Roe joined in many Worksop attacks from his left back slot, his 28th minute shot striking Jack Muldoon and bouncing out for a goal kick.
Thomas did well to hold off Roe in a burst down the right but Stewart comfortably held his cross.
Worksop’s best first half moment came on 36 minutes when Kennedy denied his old club superbly by pushing aside a firm Alex Pursehouse drive and from the corner Chris Salt’s header was knocked off the line by the perfectly positioned James Ashmore.
Facing the elements in the second period, Matlock might have made hay when Liam Needham’s cross from the left beat everybody and then Leesley’s determined run saw him cut inside and shave the outside of the post with a low shot.
Haggerty could and possibly should have doubled the lead on the hour as a misdirected Needham shot fell to him twelve yards out but Stewart bundled the defender’s shot to safety.
Haggerty then showed his defensive qualities, cleverly denying Denton and although the Tigers were starting to show their teeth, their was little bite.
A mistake from Salt presented McMahon with a shooting chance which he took on but Stewart managed to scoop away the first time shot from distance.
A Muldoon free kick cleared the bar before Roe drove across the face of goal in Worksop’s one clear cut chance of the second half. The visitors forced two very late corners but Kennedy and Matlock refused to be beaten.
It had been a performance full of spirit with Matlock being the first team to record a clean sheet against the Tigers this term.
“All the lads were magnificent,” said a delighted Atkins afterwards. “We came with a plan to try and snuff out the Worksop forwards and in particular Denton, the plan was put to them before the game with no rehearsal and to their credit they did exactly what was asked of them.”
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Jon Kennedy 2 Micky Harcourt 3 Joe Leesley 4 Martin Foster 5 David Haggerty 6 Oscar Radford 7 Liam Needham 8 James Ashmore 9 Lewis McMahon 10 Daryl Thomas (12 Lavell White 70), 11 Cecil Nyoni (14 Corey Gregory 89) Other subs: 15 Matty Wilkinson 17 Matty Leese
WORKSOP TOWN: 1 Jonathan Stewart 2 Alex Pursehouse 3 Phil Roe 4 Jake Scott 5 Josh Hill 6 Chris Salt 7 Jack Muldoon 8 Shane Clarke (15 Mitch Husbands 58), 9 Tom Denton 10 Jack Adams 11 Connor Higginson (14 Aaron Cole 77) Other subs: 12 Ben Gathercole 16 Josh Williams 17 Jack Barnett
REFEREE: MR T Nield (Holmfirth) ATTENDANCE: 351 BEST GLADIATOR: David Haggerty