Matlock’s substitutes played key parts by scoring both second half goals which beat a tired and depleted Stalybridge 2-0 at the DCJ Group Arena on Thursday night.
Chris Ondong-Mba fired in the opener in the 64th minute before a maiden Matlock first team goal for Harry Wood made sure of the points and a fifth win on the bounce, six minutes later.
The visitors, who had already played on Monday and Tuesday this midweek, only had 12 available players, their sole substitute being the academy team’s goalkeeper who had to play in an outfield position after Portuguese striker Braulio Maiecou was forced off injured after the Gladiators’ second goal.
But Matlock again produced the goods by dominating, if not quite as effectively as against Rushall two nights earlier.
With Dwayne Wiley having to work, Matlock brought in Jamie Jackson at right back and moved Jake Phillips to partner skipper Adam Yates in the middle of the defence. Academy striker Billy Whitehead, 16-year-old Zak Brunt and Amos Kabeya were the other substitutes.
Bridge custodian George Kenworthy-Sykes pulled off fine saves from both Ricky German and Harry Limb inside the opening five minutes as Matlock bossed things from the start. It took 14 minutes for Celtic to threaten, Jake Charles’ shot from the right beating the back post.
But four minutes later, the visitors were fortunate to survive when Jake Green thumped his shot against the woodwork with Kenworthy-Sykes well beaten. Penalty appeals when Phillips went down were rejected before Celtic broke quickly to win a corner on the right and Luke Ashworth’s glanced header dropped harmlessly wide.
Stalybridge held on again to scramble the ball clear after Kenworthy-Sykes spilled a 25-yard strike from Joe Doyle-Charles but might have stolen a 31st minute lead when a driven corner from the left struck Matty Wolfenden to deflect narrowly wide.
But Matlock lost talisman midfielders Michael Williams and Doyle-Charles through injury either side of the interval.
Williams charge down the right ended with a probable hamstring pull while Doyle-Charles limped off with a recurrence of the leg problem sustained in the Rushall victory.
Interim boss threw on Wood and Zak Brunt, both being exceptional, seemingly taking to NPL football like ducks to water.
Ted Cribley shot high over the bar after initially creating the chance spurned by miskicks from German and Harry Limb three minutes into the new half. German then did better as he chased a long ball to unsettle Jack Taylor and drive fiercely and inches too high but four minutes after replacing German, Ondong-Mba struck gold.
Cribley’s pin-point Crossfield pass released the overlapping Green on the left, a short low cross found the substitute who shot low past Kenworthy-Sykes.
Ondong-Mba would then turn provider as the lead was doubled, feeding Wood on the right for the academy student to drill a low fierce shot across goal into the opposite corner for a tremendous finish.
Brunt tried to get in the substitutes scoring act dragging a low drive wide before Wood tried a repeat of his goal strike but saw his effort charged down.
Oliver Roberts’ low shot skidded across the goalmouth for Bridge but Limb nearly made it three with the last kick of the contest, Kenworthy-Sykes flying to his right to turn the shot away.
Stalybridge deserve credit for staying in the game as long as they did, given their gruelling week but Matlock’s passing simply added to their tiredness and again the hosts were applauded off after another pleasing performance and outcome.
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Richard Walton 2 Jamie Jackson 3 Jake Green 4 Joe Doyle-Charles (12 Zak Brunt 49) 5 Adam Yates 6 Jake Phillips 7 Kieran Wallace 8 Michael Williams (17 Harry Wood 37) 9 Ricky German (16 Chris Ondong-Mba 60) 10 Ted Cribley 11 Harry Limb. Subs not used: 14 Amos kabeya 15 Billy Whitehead.
STALYBRIDGE CELTIC: 1 George Kenworthy-Sykes 2 Harrison Holgate 3 Alex Honeyball 4 Danny Morton 5 Luke Ashworth 6 Jack Taylor 7 Jake Charles 8 Oliver Roberts 9 Braulio Maieco (17 Aiden Winterbottom 71) 10 Matthew Wolfenden 11 Connor Hughes.
REFEREE: Andrew Dallison (Mansfield).
BEST GLADIATOR: Jake Green.