Matlock Town beat FC United of Manchester to move top of the table
Ioan Evans headed in a dramatic stoppage time decider to put injury hit Matlock Town on top of the Pitching In NPL Premier Division at a rain soaked Proctor Cars Stadium on Saturday.
It was a fitting climax to a gripping and intriguing game in which the visitors played their full part and they will no doubt be reflecting that they felt they deserved something from the contest.
But this Matlock side just keep on going and their late pressure eventually paid dividends as their 100 per cent home league record was maintained.
The Gladiators’ three midweek signings , Liam King, Arum Soleman and Tyreese Oyneka, all featured on the bench as injury ruled out Callum Chippendale, Jamie Cooke and Ross Hannah, the latter being named as a substitute. Jesurun Uchegbulam and Craig King were the men to replace Chippendale and Cooke in the starting eleven.
The visitors began well, soon looking to be the best side to have visited the Proctor Cars Stadium so far this season.
Evans did well to cut out a cross from Brad Holmes which would have left Cedric Main with a tap in after only a minute, Ryan Qualter getting a crucial header to a dangerous Adam Dodd cross shortly afterwards.
Matlock replied with Jesurun Uchegbulam being superbly denied by visiting goalkeeper Dan Lavercumbe before Alex Byrne floated a free kick wide of the mark.
Paul Ennis, who had a loan spell at Matlock in 2016/17, drove wide after another neat passing move from United but again Matlock responded as Byrne cleverly played a deft free kick to the near post which Uchegbulam clipped wide.
Regan Linney would probably be feeling the defeat more than any other United player as he had two golden chances to score which obviously would have put a totally different slant on the game.
On 27 minutes he broke down the inside left channel but goalkeeper Shaun Rowley was quickly down to push way his shot and from the follow up a magnificent intercepting tackle from Yates averted more danger. Then two minutes before the break Linney escaped down the right but slid his shot wide of the far post with only Rowley to beat.
In between Rowley beat out a fierce strike from Alistair Waddecarr but chances came at the United end too. Lavercumbe made a flying save to keep out a header from Hughes with the ball dropping to Yates whose goalbound effort hit Byrne to fizz away for a goal kick much to the visitors’ relief. Hughes might have found the target when released by Byrne but he drove inches wide. How the match was still scoreless was a real brain teaser!
Hughes headed a Byrne cross too high shortly after the resumption, Byrne then turning sweetly to fire a shot at Lavercumbe as Matlock began brightly.
Uchegbulam could have made the breakthrough on 58 minutes but Lavercumbe did well to knock away the attempted chip over him as now most of the chances seemed to be falling Matlock’s way. The goalkeeper did well again to push clear a Byrne free kick before Matlock made a double change as Soleman and Onyeka came on for their debuts, replacing Craig King and Uchegbulam.
Onyeka, a pacy forward on loan from Crewe, soon showed lightning speed as he burst down the right and later he came close to a debut goal as he tried to turn in a Byrne cross, Lavercumbe doing well to block before Hughes sliding in at the far post was pulled up for a foul.
By this time Liam King was on for his second Matlock debut, curling a twenty yarder over the bar as Matlock increased the pressure.
It looked as if the scoresheet would remain blank until three minutes into added time when Byrne’s fantastic cross from the right saw EVANS direct a looping header over the diving Lavercumbe to signal wild celebrations among the home support and on the bench and field.
Matlock went top after South Shields were held by Nantwich to a goalless draw, the margin of diffwrence is minimal though, the Gladiators lading on goals scored.
So Evans’ moment of glory had extra significance. It was well worth getting soaked to witness moments like these, the rain tough did keep the attendance down at 903 when on a fine day three or four hundred more fans would surely have shown up.
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Shaun Rowley 2 Adam Yates 3 Reece Kendall 4 Ioan Evans 5 Ryan Qualter 6 Mark Lees 7 Alex Byrne 8 Alex Wiles (16 Liam King 84) 9 Liam Hughes 10 Jesurun Uchegbulam (12 Tyreese Onyeka 62) 11 Craig King (17 Aram Soleman 62) Other subs: 14 Kayde Coppin 15 Ross Hannah
FC UNITED OF MANCHESTER: 1 Dan Lavercumbe 2 Alistair Waddecarr (16 Matty Rain 65) 3 Adam Dodd 4 Michael Donohue 5 Drew Baker 6 Aaron Morris 7 Paul Ennis (14 Hayden Campbell 69) 8 Michael Potts 9 Brad Holmes 10 Cedric Main 11 Regan Linney Other subs: 12 Jack Bennett 15 Curtis Jones 17 Jordan Simpson
REFEREE: Matt Bacon (Mexborough) ATTENDANCE: 903 BEST GLADIATOR: Ioan Evans.