Matlock’s last game of the season brought another defeat, their fourth on the trot and made it an average of four goals conceded a game in that run, as an average Stafford outfit, just one place above them, claimed a 4-1 win.
Initially the signs in Dave Frecklington’s final match in charge looked encouraging, the Gladiators holding their own and playing some neat football on the floor in testing blustery conditions.
But neither goalkeeper was troubled in an even first half hour and at this point the match looked destined for a scoreless draw, which given Matlock’s current run, would have been taken with relish.
Town had the first sniff at goal in the 27th minute when Jordan Chapell found Marcus Marshall who was crowded out at the expense of a corner and after the initial flag kick had been cleared at the expense of another, Cleveland Taylor delivered a cross to the far post for Nyle Blake to nod wide,
But the visitors found the target in the 34th minute when Marshall outpaced the home defence on to a pass down the centre to push his finish past goalkeeper Adam Siviter with Andrai Jones’ attempt to clear being fruitless.
But Matlock’s joy was extremely shortlived as within five minutes Rangers were in front to leave Matlock staring down the barrel of another defeat.
Just 90 seconds after Marshall scored, Ben Mills shot the hosts level volleying home through a crowd of players from the edge of the box.
Rangers increased the tempo forcing two successive corners before nobody in an anthracite shirt closed down Andy Haworth who cut in from the left and was allowed a free shot which took a massive deflection to find the net.
Chapell fired tamely wide for Matlock who sought an immediate reply but again, a lack of application had led to their downfall.
Then any hopes of a second half recovery took a huge jolt only three minutes into the second period as Matlock again made a mess of clearing their lines, the ball dropping for Sam Coulson to volley past Jordan Pierrepont from the edge of the box.
Dwayne Wiley hooked the ball off the line after another mix up in the Matlock rearguard before the match became a little like a pre season run out.
Matlock actually had the greater share of the possession but did little of note with it, all too often wanting to walk the ball into the net.
Nathan Whitehead was off balance as he hooked an effort wide midway through the half but Matlock nearly shot themselves in the foot again when a crazy back pass from Michael Hollingsworth gave Mills a good chance which he skied high and wide.
But Stafford netted again with four minutes left, another lack of communication at the back letting in Howarth who lobbed over Pierrepont who was in no mans land, the ball dropping just inside the far post.
Howarth came close to a hat-trick as his twenty five yarder rattled against an upright before Pierrepont knocked away a shot from Mills.
For Matlock Blake glanced wide a cross from substitute Nathan Morley and Chapell drove narrowly wide from the edge of the box.
The final whistle signalled the end of a disastrous finale to the season for Matlock who have switched off since achieving safety. The final four games have not been at all acceptable, and any prospective manager watching from the stands will see that he has a formidable task on his hands.
Matlock finished in 15th spot with the league’s worst defensive record and the players need to take a long look in the mirror and ask themselves honestly whether they, individually, and as a unit, gave their all to the cause in the final four matches?
The answer ought to be a rssounding no,the management team, the club officials, helpers and fans deserved so much better.
STAFFORD RANGERS: 1 Adam Siviter 2 Josh Green (12 Tom Thorley 55) 3 Simranjit Thandi 4 Sam Coulson 5 Dan Burns 6 Andrai Jones (15 Jack Sherratt 55) 7 Andy Haworth 8 Peter Williams 9 Ben Mills 10 Jed Davies 11 Joe Cuff (17 Louis Briscoe 69) Other subs: 14 Theo Bailey-Jones 16 Luke Jones
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Jordan Pierrepont 2 Cleveland Taylor (14 Nathan Morley 51) 3 Bradley Beatson 4 Michael Hollingsworth 5 Dwayne Wiley 6 Adam Yates 7 Nyle Blake 8 Nathan Whitehead ( 12 Callum Chettle 60) 9 Marcus Marshall 10 Jordan Chapell 11 Greg Tempest Other subs: 15 Lee Beevers 16 Craig Westcarr 17 Terry Fleming
REFEREE: Paul Stonier (Stoke-on-Trent).
BEST GLADIATOR: Marcus Marshall.