Matlock proved to be their own worst enemy as bogy side Halesowen recorded another clear win at the Autoworld Arena on Tuesday night.
Last term the Yeltz twice won 4-0 at Matlock and scored four in the league match at The Grove.
Whereas last season their two away wins over the Gladiators came from totally commanding performances, this time it was a case of Matlock being dominant for long periods, playing attractive flowing football, but missing chances and even more damning, not being able to keep goals out at the other end.
After being largely outplayed in the opening half, Halesowen broke the deadlock seconds before the interval and although Matlock had the lion’s share of the possession into the second half, two breakaway goals sealed Mark Hume’s side’s fate.
The visitors goal had a charmed life at times, but credit must be given to their defence. They showed grit and determination in abundance with countless blocks and effective clearances, where Matlock, for the second game in succession were found wanting in that department.
It was all out attack by Matlock from the start. Niall McManus turned neatly on three minutes, his shot was charged down with Nicky Travis, a colossus in the Gladiators midfield, shooting wide from the rebound.
Then Liam Gaughan set up Ted Cribley whose effort was deflected wide before Cribley was superbly denied by goalkeeper Daniel Platt on nine minutes, Danny Holland acrobatically scissor kicking the loose ball past the post.
It was fully 23 minutes before there was anything of note from the visitors attack, a neat passing move ending with Keyon Refell side footing tamely wide. Two minutes later a shot from Reece Hales would have been comfortably saved by George Willis but an awkward ricochet off Oscar Radford saw the ball bounce just inches wide.
But then it was Matlock probing again instantly. Travis’ tenacity saw him combine with Gaughan before feeding McManus whose shot was held by Platt.
Centres from McManus and Cribley came to nothing when they deserved better, Cribley then firing at goal from 20 yards with Platt able to gather before Holland flicked a header wide from Harcourt’s cross.
The wily experienced Greg Pearson replaced the injured Dean Waldron on 44 minutes and made an immediate impact, breaking strongly down the left to cross low for Refell to cleverly push home and Halesowen had an undeserved lead. But it was a pivotal moment.
Straight after the break Matlock sought a response. A full blooded free kick from Harcourt was bravely blocked by Kyle Morrison and Platt was more than equal to a precise low shot from Travis from a McManus cross.
Platt was soon in action again as Cribley shot down his throat before making a much better save from McManus.
The introduction of Joel Purkiss saw Matlock switch to a 4-3-3 formation, unfortunately then it gave Halesowen more space in the middle of the park.
Perhaps sensing they could gain their first away win of the season and move out of the relegation places having already notched their first goal on opposition soil, they had a leap of confidence and only firstly a brilliant save from Willis to deny Refell and then Oscar Radford’s miraculous goal-line clearance from the same player prevented Halesowen from doubling their advantage on 66 minutes.
But two minutes later Pearson fired home from eight yards as Matlock were stretched by a quick break upfield on the Halesowen left.
Cribley slashed another shot wide from a move down the right before Harry Coates, somewhat surprisingly left out of the first eleven, replaced Travis and was sent up front with Matlock now adopting a 4-2-4 set up.
Coates back headed across the face of the goal just away from Holland before Halesowen had men spare in a pacy counter attack leaving AARON GRIFFITHS to fire low and convincingly past Willis with nine minutes left.
Platt turned aside a fiercely struck Needham strike and to put the cap on Matlock’s night, Holland headed against a post from four yards range and a magnificent individual run by McManus ended with the familiar sight of Platt being in the right place to collect the final shot.
This second successive defeat, with six goals conceded has seen Matlock drop to tenth. The FA Cup tie with Whitley Bay this weekend is now big, in more ways than one.
MATLOCK TOWN: George Willis, Micky Harcourt, Ben Algar, Nicky Travis (Harry Coates 74), Adam Yates, Oscar Radford, Ted Cribley, Liam Needham, Niall McManus, Danny Holland, Liam Gaughan WSJoel Purkiss 57). Subs not used: Scott Maxfield, Mark Hume, Ryan Pugh.
HALESOWEN TOWN: Danny Platt, Luke Connolly, Aaron Griffiths, Jay Denny, Joe Hull, Kyle Morrison, Asa Charlton, Chris Westwood, Keyon Refell (George McGee 83), Reece Hales (Isaac Cooper 89), Dean Waldron (Greg Pearson 44). Subs not used: Connor Collins, Matthew Sergeant.
REFEREE: D. Plowright (Clipstone).
BEST GLADIATOR: Nicky Travis.