Matlock’s winless run is stretched to eight games

Lee Morris, Matlock Town
Lee Morris, Matlock Town

Monday, January 2, 2012

Evo-Stik Premier Division

Mickleover Sports 3

Eric Graves 25

Danny Quinn 65, 67

Matlock Town 1

Lee Morris 39

Matlock Town: Jon Kennedy, Micky Harcourt, Oscar Radford, Liam King, Adam Yates, James Lukic, Lee Morris (Scott Bibby 69), Steve Warne (Lee Whittington 66), Danny Davidson (Ben Hunter 30), Ian Holmes, Gareth Davies. Other sub: Adam Sollitt

Referee: D Naylor (Sutton-in-Ashfield)

Attendance: 420

Star man: Liam King

2012 got off to a similar start to 2011 with a poor Matlock performance and a depressing defeat at Mickleover Sports.

Quite simply, if Matlock have any realistic hopes of progressing upwards from this division, then sides such as Sports need to be put in their place but the hosts showed a greater hunger throughout and could even afford to miss an early penalty as they won in relative comfort.

So in the end, Matlock’s winless run was extended to eight league matches and it is now two months since they hammered Stocksbridge 4-0 at the Reynolds Stadium.

What has gone wrong? Injuries and suspensions have had some impact but on Monday Matlock had some leading protagonists back.

Confidence appears to have taken an almighty jolt, the free flowing football of eight or so weeks ago has disappeared.

Instead, the ball is like a hot potato, and on Monday they were overpowered in midfield.

In short, the Gladiators side now looks largely unrecognisable from the one which looked so hard to beat at the beginning of November.

Few positives can be taken from the Station Road debacle. Early on, Matlock surrendered possession all too easily and should have gone behind in the seventh minute when a clumsy challenge from Adam Yates on livewire Kieran O’Connell brought about an easy penalty verdict for excellent referee David Naylor, but Alex Steadman struck the post from the spot.

Danny Davidson, who would later in the opening half would be replaced by Ben Hunter, failed to take advantage of a promising situation shortly afterwards with a wayward cross when clear of the Sports’ back line, but Sports always looked more potent and when O’Connell won a corner on the left, Danny Quinn headed over when well-placed after the initial delivery had been tipped behind by Jon Kennedy.

Liam King sliced wide when Steve Warne found him in a supporting role as Matlock broke purposefully but Mickleover’s pressure paid off on 25 minutes when Yates stretched to clear another cross from O’Connell and Eric Graves followed up to shoot clinically home.

A King shot hit a defender but in the official’s one error of the contest, he awarded Mickleover a goalkick.

Warne’s shot was then deflected too high before, on 39 minutes, Morris was in the right place to turn in a fierce King strike from close range which should have been the catalyst for a Gladiators revival.

Ben Hunter, who had replaced Davidson then stretched to lift his shot narrowly too high after a neat interchange with Oscar Radford and Ian Holmes helped on Kennedy’s long clearance, only to see the ball bounce wide as Matlock promised better fare for the second period.

But it proved to be a false dawn for Town who after threatening first after the restart through King whose shot was turned aside by Damon Clarke, fell away badly. Kennedy saved brilliantly from Quinn but Quinn restored the lead for Sports in the 65th minute.

Again O’Connell, a target for Matlock in the summer, did the damage, his pace taking him clear up the left before setting up the on-loan Hednesford striker for a simple finish.

Two minutes later, the game was as good as over. Kennedy, a model of consistency for virtually the whole of the campaign so far cleared straight into Quinn’s path and there was no let-off as the number nine drove accurately home. Matlock huffed and puffed but were cumbersome where it mattered.

Ian Holmes might have done significantly better from a scramble but Sports defended defiantly as if their lives depended on it and, with eight minutes left, returning skipper James Lukic rose to plant a free header too high from a corner.

But generally Matlock were far too predictable going forward and experienced central defender Craig McAughtrie never missed a high ball as he had the Matlock strikers firmly in his pocket.

Sports deservedly gained three valuable points.

It was not that difficult for them against a Matlock side not at the races and who left the travelling support, who made up at least half of the 420 crowd, disappointed.