Matlock Town continued the disturbing trend of gifting opposition easy goals as they conceded three times for the third successive home match in a 3-1 home defeat by Warrington Town on Tuesday night.
It had worked out okay against Lancaster last Saturday as they scored four of their own to win the game.
But that wasn’t going to happen against a strong play-off chasing Warrington outfit who recovered from the early setback of going a goal down to turn in a solid, organised performance.
Even when they were reduced to 10 men through Tony Gray’s second yellow card midway through the second half, it made little difference.
They left just one up front and defended with two solid banks of four and said to Matlock “get past us if you can.”
Matlock handed a debut to tall central defender Brad-Lee Gascoigne, signed from Nuneaton Town on Monday night. The new recruit replaced Micky Harcourt at centre half in the only change to the starting line up.
He was probably the best of a back four who again under performed but at the same time deserved a little more protection from those in front of them.
The Gladiators have never beaten Warrington, but their hopes of ending that run were very briefly raised as they went ahead in the fourth minute thanks to a beautifully worked goal.
Ted Cribley broke through down the inside right channel to thread a simple but wonderful through pass to Lee Bennett, who had timed his run perfectly to blast a fine shot past Tony MacMillan.
That should have been just the impetus Matlock needed. They needed to be strong and tight in defence, but their managers and fans were left scratching their heads as two suicidal pieces of defending incredibly saw them behind only four minutes later.
Adam Yates should have done better for the first goal but hesitation instead of banging the ball clear proved to be costly as Joe Piggott shrugged him off to beat Phil Barnes with a firmly hit low shot just inside the left hand post on six minutes.
Then Piggott struck again following more poor communication at the heart of the Gladiators defence to beat Barnes with another low drive.
It gave Warrington a grip on the game that was never seriously threatened thereafter.
Symptomatic of the hosts’ lack of defensive concentration was a left wing corner that was telegraphed by the Yellows, played short to Gray who had ample time to pick out a cross which flashed across the face of the goal.
Warrington were quick into the tackle and thought more swiftly than the Gladiators as they looked to be a well drilled unit.
Harry Vince was booked for pulling back Gray who then received his first yellow card for a late challenge on Jan Yeomans.
Full back Adam Carden joined them for an elbow on Vince that might have brought a stiffer punishment.
Yeomans fired narrowly off target from distance, from a more promising Matlock move on 37 minutes but Warrington maintained their single goal lead until the interval and doubled it five minutes into the second half.
Again Matlock could not clear their lines effectively, Bradley Barnes smashing an unstoppable 25-yarder through his namesake, who would probably have been flattened had he got in its way.
It was a great strike but Dwayne Wiley will probably reflect he could have done better with his clearance, which was struck first time by the Yellows defender.
With Bennett and Shaun Harrad both looking heavy legged, Matlock boldly removed them both and sent on Harry Limb and Jamie Jackson.
However, two minutes later Gray was off following a reckless challenge on Limb.
Shaun Beeley was also fortunate to stay on for an elbow on Michael Williams .
How Matlock’s management duo could have done with the benefit of hindsight.
Would both Bennett and Harrad have been withdrawn had the sending-off happened a few minutes earlier?
The numerical disadvantage did not worry Warrington who closed ranks and although Matlock enjoyed the lion’s share of the play, it was mainly by playing in front of the massive barrier that protected MacMillan.
Wiley was sent up front to supplement the attack, the hosts’ best chance of a reply coming with four minutes left when Wiley knocked down a cross for Limb and Jackson to have efforts smothered by a determined visiting defence.
The Matlock groundstaff had worked tirelessly to get the game on following an hour of snow which had left the DCJ Group Arena looking like a white carpet.
The lines had been made clear and a tractor had helped clear the snow and it was a pity that Matlock had not performed as efficiently when the action started.
Warrington’s strength had won the day, as they defended far better than Matlock.
Matlock must improve defensively as a unit, and quickly. Teams are finding a way through far too easily and they generally have too much to do to earn any reward.
MATLOCK TOWN: Phil Barnes, Brad-Lee Gascoigne, Jan Yeomans (Joe Doyle-Charles 67), Harry Vince, Adam Yates, Dwayne Wiley, Kieran Wallace, Michael Williams, Shaun Harrad (Harry Limb 62), Lee Bennett (Jamie Jackson 62), Ted Cribley. Subs not used: Matty Templeton, Jake Green.
WARRINGTON TOWN: Tony MacMillan, Adam Carden, Rory McKeowan, Bradley Barnes, Jack Higgins, Liam Goulding, Shaun Beeley, Sean Williams, Joe Piggott (Scott Bakkor 87), Tony Gary, Dylan Vassallo (Will Hayhurst 60, Gerard Kinsella 74). Subs not used: Jamie McDonald, Stephen Milne.
REFEREE: Lee Freeman of Sheffield.
BEST GLADIATOR: Brad-Lee Gascoigne.