A tight hard fought tussle saw Saturday’s curtain raiser to the new NPL Premier Division campaign finish deservedly goalless at Steel Park.
The hosts, playing their first ever NPL game following relegation from National League North in the spring, had the better of the chances, but generally the star performers were in the respective defences.
Matlock reverted to a traditional 4-4-2 formation and sprung a slight surprise naming Dwayne Wiley at left back and the move worked a treat.
Wiley put in a faultless defensive performance but equally, he was dangerous when he came forward and fully deserved his star rating status,
Marc Newsham, an injury doubt beforehand, was passed fit but he was the only one in that category to do so, with Ted Cribley, Phil Barnes, Alex Pursehouse and Ben Partridge all missing out.
Ben Edgson, who signed first team forms on Friday, was named as a substitute. Corby included Andre Johnson, a striker who had a brief spell at Matlock two seasons ago.
In a relatively quiet start, Corby’s number nine, former Derby County striker Callum Ball, received a lecture for a late second minute challenge on Wiley before the Gladiators had a half chance in the eighth minute, Jamie Yates cross from the right being deflected towards Newsham but the ball failed to sit nicely for the former Gainsborough striker and home custodian Aiden Grant easily collected the tame finish.
Corby responded with full back Connor Kennedy bursting from deep on the right to see his shot from distance blocked, soon afterwards earning a corner when another similar attempt hit a covering defender.
A foul on the excellent Adam Yates relieved the pressure for Matlock before the Steelmen attacked again and Ball nodded a cross from Liam Marshall wide at the back post.
The Gladiators needed to retain possession better at this point, a more controlled build up being required rather than looking for the killer pass.
Arran Jamieson failed to collect a hanging cross from Marshall, the ball dropping for Reece Webb to drive wide from the edge of the box before Matlock finished the opening half the better of the two sides,
Anthony Griffiths-Junior nearly took Grant by surprise when a cross from the left turned into a shot, the goalkeeper having to backpedal and tip the awkward attempt over the bar.
Grant then advanced swiftly to the edge of the penalty box to clear from Jake Green before a fine recovery tackle from O’neil Odofin, one of Corby’s two giant central defenders, stopped Newsham, who had combined neatly with Green.
The final action of the half saw Niall McManus pull his shot wide from eighteen yards but Matlock could be reasonably satisfied with their efforts thus far.
Matlock soon won a corner after the resumption and the dangerous Wiley’s power packed header was blocked, possibly by Newsham but there was soon danger as the hosts broke at pace and after Adam Yates was penalised for a foul on Ball, Webb’s curling free kick struck the outside of Jamieson’s right hand post. Another Corby free kick, this time taken by Cleveland Taylor, was comfortably wide before the tit for tat flow continued, Newsham heading Wiley cross too high.
Ball wasted the best opportunity to win the match when he skied Marshall’s cross from the left high over the bar when well placed with eight minutes remaining and after Kennedy drove harmlessly wide from distance, Jamieson pulled off a cracking save from Ben Milnes who shot low when in space, but Jamieson was more than equal to the task as he pushed the ball away from danger.
Then it was Matlock’s turn to threaten right at the end and in a scramble in the box from an injury time corner, the ball again would not drop conveniently for Newsham as Corby survived.
On the face of it, a good point for the Gladiators, how good a point it is though will become apparent as the season progresses.
They battled well against a big physical side,and as joint boss Glenn Kirkwood pointed out afterwards, a clean sheet away from home on the opening day is very satisfying.
CORBY TOWN: 1 Aiden Grant 2 Connor Kennedy 3 Liam Marshall 4 Jamie Anton 5 Brad-Lee Gasgoigne 6 O’neil Odofin (14 Danny Draper 78) 7 Cleveland Taylor 8 Reece Webb 9 Callum Ball 10 Ben Milnes 11 Andre Johnson (15 Kurtis Bevan 78).
Subs not used: 12 Luke Aridegbe 13 Monty Parkes 16 Jordan Crawford.
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Arron Jamieson 2 Liam Marsden 3 Dwayne Wiley 4 Laurie Wilson 5 Adam Yates 6 Nico de Girolamo 7 Jamie Yates (12 Andy Todd 74) 8 Anthony Griffiths-Junior (14 Nicky Travis 57) 9 Marc Newsham 10 Jake Green (15 Ryan King 80), 11 Niall McManus.
REFEREE: Matthew Smith (Hinckley).
ATTENDANCE: 525 BEST GLADIATOR: Dwayne Wiley.