The season’s opener deservedly brought in the first victory under Matlock manager Steve Kittrick’s stewardship — a 1-0 home win over Bamber Bridge — and the margin might have been more emphatic.
Marcus Marshall netted in the 34th minute to ensure the points would stay in Derbyshire, Marshall being one of only three starters who completed the 2018/19 campaign.
So this victory was even more remarkable. It might not have been the most fluent performance, but few in the 402 crowd at the Proctor Cars Stadium expected that. However, they witnessed a hard working, solid display against a dogged but, on the day, limited opposition, who, apart from a last gasp scramble, only created one other chance.
The Gladiators, in contrast, had at least three more clear-cut chances to extend their lead, but the Town supremo will reflect on a satisfying first game in charge at Matlock.
Kittrick included his Friday signing, Jack Rae, in the centre of midfield with Spencer Harris on the injured list. Marshall was the focal point of the attack with Scott Smith and Piteu Crouz in wide positions as Andrew Wright, Luke Dean and Rae supported down the middle.
Chances were few and far between in a tight first half, the best chance in that opening spell falling to Dean who drove high and wide from the edge of the box after a corner from the right was played short.
The goal owed much to Matlock’s persistence, Crouz on the right having lifted in a shot that rebounded off the woodwork. Wright and Rae both had follow-up strikes blocked before, at the fourth time of asking, Marshall fired home from close range.
Matlock, buoyed by going in front, went close again five minutes later, Dean winning the ball superbly midway inside the Brig half only to slice his shot high and wide from a promising position.
Then on the stroke of half-time Town threatened once again with Marshall starting the move to feed Wright, who in turn set up Smith, whose shot was charged down.
Matlock could be satisfied with their efforts thus far, but Brig reminded them the outcome was still to be settled within four minutes of the resumption, Stewart advancing swiftly to close down the angle as he blocked from Gary Pett on the edge of the box.
That was Brig’s big and only chance apart from a last gasp scramble.
Matlock though should have been comfortably clear by then. A Crouz free kick was expertly clawed away by Rigby before Smith headed a corner from the right by Rea over the bar.
But Wright had the best chances, shooting tamely at Rigby from 10 yards before turning wide another effort from that distance on the turn.
In between the Wright opportunities, Marshall tried his luck with Rigby out of his goal following lax play in the visitors’ defence, his 30-yarder hit first time dropping wide.
With a slender advantage, Matlock needed to concentrate hard but Brig’s late pressure was too little, too late, given it was inside the fourth minute of stoppage time when Matlock defended doggedly to knock the ball clear. Referee Paul Stonier blew for full-time as Smith completed the clear-up.
Stewart was injured in that late but rare pressure on the Matlock defence, with skipper Adam Yates ending the game with his ankle encompassed in ice after a fine block tackle.
A determination to keep a clean sheet with some fine defending earned Dwayne Wiley star rating but others in midfielder Dean and matchwinner Marshall ran him close.
A good start then for Matlock but tougher tests lie ahead. Keen and recently departed supporters Phil Williams and Dan Griffiths, who were remembered in a minute’s silence before kick off, would have been happy with the performance and the result.
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Jon Stewart 2 Adam Yates ( 15 Jordon Cooke 78) 3 Ben Gordon 4 Luke Dean 5 James Williamson 6 Dwayne Wiley 7 Scott Smith 8 Jack Rea (14 Nathan Whitehead 84) 9 Marcus Marshall 10 Andrew Wright (12 Luke Hinsley 88) 11 Piteu Crouz. Other subs: 16 Dan Bramall 17 James Tague
BAMBER BRIDGE: 1Lloyd Rigby 2 Callum Spooner 3 Adam Sumner 4 Matt Lawlor 5 Kieran Charnock 6 Joe Booth 7 Alistair Waddecar 8 Danny Wisdom (14 Danny Forbes 78) 9 Gary Pett 10 Ryan White (16 Chris Marlow 82) 11 Scott Harries (17 Matthew Dudley 68) Other subs: 12 Phil Doughty 15 Christopher Churchman
REFEREE: Paul Stonier (Stoke -on-Trent) ATTENDANCE: 402 BEST GLADIATOR: Dwayne Wiley