Halesowen thrashed Matlock by the same 4-0 scoreline for the second time at the Autoworld Arena in precisely a month as the Gladiators crashed out of the FA Trophy on Tuesday night.
The first Halesowen win proved to be former manager Mark Atkins’ last game in charge, who would have thought that in Dave Rushbury’s and Martin Foster’s first home game after being formally appointed as Atkins’ replacements, the result would be exactly the same?
But that’s what happened and Matlock were soundly put to the sword. They were second best all over the pitch as Halesowen were sharper in the tackle, they collected the vast majority of the second balls and hunted hungrily in packs to virtually nullify Matlock as an attacking force.
In hindsight, the tie was probably lost when Kristian Green scored an 85th minute equalizer for the West Midlanders in the first attempt to settle the tie on Saturday. By then Matlock should have been through to the next round and as it turned out a tie at Blyth Spartans.
Fans could have been forgiven for thinking that the Gladiators plainly didn’t fancy the long trip up the A1. There was only one change to the team from the weekend and on paper it suggested extra strength with the return of Micky Harcourt.
But from the first whistle it was painfully obvious to the home support that it was Halesowen who were more committed for the victory.
Matlock were soon on the back foot and a header from Daniel Bragioli was narrowly too high after an assist from a third minute corner, but despite not being at the races, it was the hosts who had the best chance with Corey Gregory planting a fine 15th minute header narrowly wide from an Adam Yates cross.
That was merely the signal for the Yeltz to increase the tempo with veteran striker Iyseden Christie prominent. His strike partner Ben Haseley turned Harcourt forcing Jon Kennedy to beat away his shot at the near post before Kennedy was in action again, this time denying Elliott Turner.
But there was a slice of good fortune about the opening goal on 25 minutes as a deep cross from the left by Aaron Griffiths deceived Kennedy to strike the far post and drop over the line.
A better Matlock move saw Danny Holland flick a Harcourt cross too high and in Matlock’s only decent attacking spell of the contest, Joe Hull cleared a teasing Joe Leesley centre aimed for Gregory before goalkeeper Matthew Sergeant helped a James Ashmore free kick over the line but the ‘goal’ was ruled out for a foul.
Gregory, who damaged a shoulder in the first half, was part of a double change which saw Josh Meade replace him and Lavell White brought on for Lawrence Gorman. Matlock’s best player on the night, and given Gregory’s departure it was quite an easy choice in Ashmore, cracked in a thirty five yarder straight at Sergeant.
But on the hour a Yates error, compounded by some sleepy defending as a whole led to Christie slamming home Halesowen’s second and putting the game beyond the hosts.
Matlock’s only other threat was a turn and shot by Holland which was well blocked by Hull. Halesowen were determined to put their bodies on the line to secure their win.
David Haggerty’s mistake saw Christie shoot goal wards, Kennedy parry and Haseley nod in for 3-0 on 82 minutes, with Haseley’s second and the Yeltz’ fourth coming in fine style four minutes later.
A deft but wonderful flick by Christie released his strike partner to shoot past Kennedy for a brilliantly executed goal.
It might have been worse for Christie drove a whisker wide as Matlock might have been further embarrassed.
Positives for Matlock? None. The reality is that Messrs Rushbury and Foster have plenty of hard work and tough decisions to make.
The promise of the last month was brutally shattered and with both Holland and Harcourt limping at the end, the visit of leaders Skelmersdale United on Saturday might mean further hurt, if there is a repeat of what in plain terms was a shambles.
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Jon Kennedy 2 Micky Harcourt 3 Lawrence Gorman ((15 Lavell White 49) 4 Adam Yates 5 David Haggerty 6 Oscar Radford 7 Niall McManus 8 James Ashmore 9 Danny Holland 10 Joe Leesley (14 Matt Andrews 66) 11 Corey Gregory (12 Josh Meade 49). Subs not used: None.
HALESOWEN TOWN: 1 Matthew Sergeant 2 Kristian Green 3 Aaron Griffiths 4 Aaron Forde (12 Thomas Tonks 73) 5 Joe Hull 6 Curtis Tilt 7 Joel Kettle (15 Robert Thompson-Brown 79) 8 Daniel Bragioli 9 Iyseden Christie 10 Ben Haseley 11 Elliott Turner. Subs not used: 14 Tesfa Robinson 16 Asa Charlton 13 Daniel Watson.
REFEREE: David Plowright (Clipstone).
BEST GLADIATOR: James Ashmore.