Saturday, March 24, 2012
Evo-Stik League Premier Division
Matlock Town 0
Chester City 1
Matlock Town: Jon Kennedy, Adam Yates, Lee Featherstone (Nathan Joynes 67), Liam King, Laurence Gaughan, James Lukic, Paul Riley, Kris Bowler, Liam Wilkin, Lewis McMahon, Ben Algar (Chris Bettney 39) Other subs: Kris Witcombe, Nick Buxton.
Referee: M Bingham – Leamington Spa
Star man: Kris Bowler
Injury-hit Matlock battled valiantly to give as good as they got against champions-elect Chester, only to lose to a solitary strike from substitute Michael Wilde.
Wilde pepped up a previously blunt looking Chester attack when brought on in the 55th minute, by which time his side could easily have been behind.
Matlock were the better side in the first half as Chester seldom looked like a side with a clear lead at the top of the table.
That was down to the Gladiators’ workrate, which was first class. On the basis of their first-half performance, when they were outstanding, Matlock deserved a share of the points.
Having been Chester’s hero with his goal, which, coupled with Northwich’s defeat at Whitby means it’s Chester’s title to lose, Wilde was cast in the role of villain on 89 minutes when he brought down Paul Riley on the left hand touchline to earn a second booking and a red card.
Fitness checks beforehand saw skipper James Lukic and full back Lee Featherstone declared fit, but Ian Holmes miss out. Micky Harcourt’s broken metatarsal sustained at Chasetown means he is out for the rest of the season. Adam Yates slotted into Harcourt’s right back spot.
Kris Bowler, unavailable at Chasetown, was recalled in central midfield while the two up front were Liam Wilkin and Lewis McMahon.
On a lovely spring day with the sun shining, the game attracted Matlock’s highest crowd of the season.
Matlock comfortably cleared a Chester corner in the opening 30 seconds and it was obvious that Matlock looked up for the challenge.
They were sharp into the tackle, restricting space for the table toppers. A 25-yarder from Liam King drifted well wide before his attempt from slightly further in, after a corner was poorly cleared, lacked pace, and goalkeeper Matthew Glennon saved easily.
Ben Algar was looking particularly sprightly on the right flank. In the 19th minute, he turned past Matty McGinn smartly to shoot wide from distance before, two minutes later, another dash forwards saw him fire in a shot which Glennon gathered at the second time of asking.
Matlock continued to work hard in midfield with Bowler, King and Riley all putting in good shifts, while at the back Laurence Gaughan and Lukic were dominant against Chris Simm and Marc Williams. Gaughan produced a fine block to close down Antoni Sarcevic’s shot as Jon Kennedy did not have a shot to save in the opening half.
Matlock were unlucky not to go in front on 36 minutes. A cracking, fiercely hit half-volley from Bowler came crashing off the underside of the bar and Riley was on to the loose ball to shoot equally fiercely towards goal but Glennon produced a brilliant save.
Chester would have been relieved to see Algar limp off in the 39th minute to add to Matlock’s injury problems.
The visitors had a late flurry of pressure near half-time including three corners after Lukic had superbly closed down Simm. The final flag kick saw George Horan badly misdirect his header.
After Wilde’s introduction, Chester looked more businesslike. Simm, for once, appeared to outfox Lukic and had the ball in the net, but referee Bingham spotted a foul.
Kennedy pulled off a fine save to deny Sarcevic but Chester got the breakthrough when the ball was played back into the danger zone as Wilde flicked a header past Kennedy for a goal out of nothing.
Nathan Joynes was immediately brought on to replace Featherstone but Kennedy had to produce another fine save from Sarcevic. Simm sliced a cross shot well wide and was equally off target after a break down the right.
Matlock continued to battle hard, but Chester were equally determined and looked in no mood to relinquish their lead.
Then came Wilde’s dismissal, which angered his manager Neil Young so much that he was sent to the stands for protesting too vociferously.
King dragged a shot wide from 20 yards in Matlock’s last attack, which left the Gladiators defeated but not disgraced.
Chester knew they had been in a game and Matlock manager Mark Atkins will be looking for the same level of commitment in the remaining matches.