A defensive howler in the first two minutes put Matlock on the back foot and ultimately it cost them the match as promotion chasing Workington came to town and went back up the M6 with a crucial victory.
For the third game in a row, Matlock conceded first and the opposition has not had to work for their goal. It came about when goalkeeper Jon Kennedy came charging off his line to claim the bouncing ball, which in hindsight, he should have let Muhammed Sabo clear. It ran free and Gareth Arnison gleefully accepted the gift steering a firm 15-yard shot into the net.
The goal seemed to affect Matlock for the rest of the opening half as Workington dominated and Matlock would have been pleased to reach the interval just the single goal behind. Player-boss Gavin Skelton was running the show in midfield, covering well and continuously probing forward creating chances for his side.
On 11 minutes Arnison looked to add to his and the Reds’ tally but fired over the bar from the edge of the box and soon Skelton was doing likewise. All Matlock could offer in the opening 40 minutes was the trademark superbly executed Otis Khan free kick on 17 minutes, which saw Reds stopper Jonny Jamieson fly to his left to tip excellently around a post.
It could so easily have been two for Workington on 38 minutes when Matlock were caught sleeping from a quickly taken free-kick, the ball being slipped to the overlapping Conor Tinnion whose drive squeezed narrowly beyond the back post.
In the run up to half time Jamie McDonagh drove weakly at Jamieson before skying another effort high and wide.
Matlock needed to improve in the second half, they did, having the bulk of the possession. Skelton shot wide from 20 yards before seeing his side reduced to ten men as skipper Gari Rowntree was sent off for a poor challenge on Niall McManus.
Later Skelton probably should have joined him, his challenge on McDonagh looking a good deal worse than Rowntree’s, the manager receiving just a yellow card. The Matlock booking count was two, Ted Cribley and McDonagh being punished for fouls.
From the 57th minute free kick after Rowntree’s dismissal, McDonagh could not finish off a decent chance and that would become a recurring theme until the end.
Danny Holland fired straight at Jamieson when well-placed before Matlock were caught out from the free kick from Cribley’s booking, Scott Allison shooting wide when he might have done better.
Holland hooked too high following the Skelton booking and as Matlock increased the pressure, McDonagh had a full blooded drive blocked before in stoppage time Khan lifted a shot too high in what proved to be Matlock’s vain hope of salvaging a draw.
Again it was a timely reminder of the hard work which still lies ahead if Premier Division football is to be secured by Matlock for next season. Even with ten men, the Reds looked a well drilled outfit. The Gladiators need to put the defeat to the back of their minds and concentrate on a number of tough matches between now and the end of the campaign.
MATLOCK: Kennedy, Harcourt (Yates 84), Maxfield (Frost 64), Cribley, Sabo, Banton, Khan, Needham, McDonagh, Holland, McManus. Subs not used: Black, Meade, Gaughan.
Referee: S Richardson (Huthwaite).