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Gladiators struggle in front of goal as experienced striker proves difference

Ted Cribley
Ted Cribley

Veteran striker Karl Hawley scored twice as Matlock Town went down 2-0 at Stafford Rangers.

The Gladiators put in a flat performance and never looked like hitting the heights of their showing in the 2-1 win at Farsley Celtic four days earlier.

Striker Curtis Morrison, who returned on loan from Guiseley on Friday, was named as a substitute but it was an unchanged Matlock line-up looking to get Evostik League points.

Rangers manager Neil Kitchen though had obviously done his homework, however, as Harry Limb, a big danger to Farsley, scarcely had a kick.

In many ways it was a case of Matlock reverting back to the norm as they only started to make an impact when it was too late at two goals down.

The visitors did not manage a shot until the 51st minute when Ted Cribley’s effort was deflected wide.

But by then Rangers had just scored a second and Matlock again faced a huge task to bring home at least a point.

Rangers began well with Josh Craddock and Hawley shooting off target before play became more even.

Poor defending then led to the hosts taking a 15th minute lead. Hawley got the better of Adam Yates from a Kieran Westwood cross and fired low past Phil Barnes from 15 yards.

Stafford had a great outlet down the left in the pacy Osebi Abadaki.

He caused headaches for Matlock in the 25th minute when his cross after a mazy run was stabbed wide by Tyrell Waite at the near post — Waite had scored against Rangers in Matlock’s 2-0 home win in October.

With Matlock down to ten men while Yates received treatment for an elbow to the face, Stafford threatened again when Jamie Jackson lost the ball on the right, Abadaki again involved with another chase at speed before Dwayne Wiley cut out the cross at the expense of an unproductive corner.

Joe Doyle-Charles was working hard in midfield but Matlock needed an extra spark to get back into the contest and their hopes suffered a massive blow only four minutes after the restart.

Matlock were on the attack as Limb’s ball to Cribley was intercepted and Rangers broke, cutting through the heart of the Town defence.

Although Wiley got a challenge in, he could only knock it against Hawley as the ball ricocheted beyond Barnes. It was a scrappy effort that was much in keeping with Matlock’s performance so far.

A double Matlock change came on the hour with Shaun Harrad and Michael Williams replacing Limb and Kieron Wallace respectively. Harrad knocked down a cross towards Cribley but a good challenge from a Stafford defender took the sting out of the shot.

Abadaki curled a fine effort narrowly wide for Rangers before penalty appeals went unanswered when Williams went down in the box at the other end.

The Gladiators might have pulled a goal back on 65 minutes when Jan Yeomans drove inches wide after good approach work from Harry Vince and two minutes later another chance came when Harrad went equally close.

But Stafford had gained the initiative and the lead and once again Matlock had left it too late in trying to assert any influence on proceedings.

Substitute Massiah MacDonald set up Hawley for a hat-trick chance with seven minutes remaining but Barnes did well to keep the ball out.

In a late rally from Matlock, excellent defending from Jordaan Brown saw him head a dangerous cross over his own bar to keep the hosts’ clean sheet intact.

STAFFORD RANGERS: 1 Adam Whitehouse 2 Sam Griffiths 3 Kieran Westwood 4 Kieran Morris 5 Jordaan Brown 6 Josh Craddock 7 Osebi Abadaki 8 Jack Sherratt 9 Karl Hawley (15 Matt Bailey 90) 10 Tyrell Waite (12 Massiah MacDonald 80) 11 Robert Thompson-Brown (Levi Reid 73). Other subs: 14 Joe Thomas 16 Daniel Westwood.

MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Phil Barnes 2 Jake Green 3 Jan Yeomans 4 Joe Doyle-Charles 5 Adam Yates 6 Dwayne Wiley 7 Jamie Jackson ( 15 Curtis Morrison 69) 8 Kieran Wallace (12 Michael Williams 60) 9 Harry Limb (14 Shaun Harrad 60) 10 Harry Vince 11 Ted Cribley. Other subs: 16 Chris Ondong-Mba 17 Jordan Pierrpont.

REFEREE: Sarah Garratt (Halesowen).

ATTENDANCE: 468.

BEST GLADIATOR: Joe Doyle-Charles.