Evo-Stik League Premier Division
Saturday, October 15, 2011
Matlock Town 0
Northwich Victoria 2
Jordan Johnson 15
Wayne Riley 29
Matlock Town: Jon Kennedy, Micky Harcourt, Lee Featherstone, Liam King, Adam Yates, Oscar Radford, Chris Bettney (Kris Bowler 32), Nathan Joynes, Ian Holmes, Gareth Davies, Ben Algar (T J Nightingale 61). Other subs: James Knowles, Ben Hunter, Nick Buxton.
Referee: J D Mayhew (Dudley)
Star man: Adam Yates
Leaders Northwich Victoria comfortably maintained their unbeaten away record as Matlock again put in a disappointing performance on Saturday.
It was a display which was in direct contrast to the dominant show against the last table toppers to come to Derbyshire, Chorley, seven days earlier.
The Vics started as they meant to go on, forcing Matlock back, and with Jordan Johnson and Wayne Riley scoring within the opening half hour, it looked as if the Gladiators would be in for a thrashing.
At least the Gladiators held their own in the second half, in spite of Micky Harcourt’s harsh sending off, but they never looked like staging a recovery. Vics’ goalkeeper Ben Hinchliffe had an easy afternoon and was not called into making one serious save.
Skipper James Lukic was ruled out with knee ligament trouble so Oscar Radford partnered Adam Yates in central defence and Lee Featherstone returned at left back.
Northwich immediately seized the initiative, were quicker to the ball and their crisp passing and movement had Matlock chasing shadows. Johnson went down in the box but his penalty claims were optimistic.
Matlock’s stand-in skipper Liam King drove very high and wide in the 13th minute but virtually all the pressure had come from Northwich and this was rewarded in the 15th minute.
Johnson found room at the back post to hammer an eight-yard shot high into the net.
As Vics looked to quickly add to their lead, the impressive Riley had a shot charged down by Featherstone. Matlock were having to defend well and Radford was having a fine game. Tall centre forward Chris Budrys was a handful, physical and skilful, but Yates competed well.
On 29 minutes, Matlock’s already difficult task was made nigh on impossible, given how the game had progressed thus far.
Riley went down as Harcourt challenged some 20 yards out. Referee John Mayhew awarded a free kick and booked Harcourt. Riley stepped up to curl a magnificent shot direct into the top corner.
Chris Bettney was replaced by Kris Bowler as Town manager Mark Atkins attempted to address the visitors’ dominance in midfield.
Then, excellent play ended with Riley’s fierce volley being deflected wide. Riley had another free kick close by from where he had already netted but lifted his shot too high.
Gareth Davies clattered into Dominic Collins and was rightly yellow carded before half-time came with Riley flicking Budrys’s assist from a Lewis Short long throw over the bar.
Vics were immediately on the offensive again early in the second period. Kennedy did well to stop a header from Budrys.
There was then a let-off for Matlock as Ian Kearney could only shoot weakly at Kennedy after Budrys had helped on midfielder Michael Roddy’s forward pass.
Yates headed high over the bar from Bowler’s cleverly-flighted free kick before King had his name taken for a late challenge on Short.
Tom Field was the visitors’ first caution, for an innocuous challenge on Featherstone. In the opening minutes, he had clearly pulled back Algar and should have been booked, especially with Mr Mayhew awarding a free kick. He could so easily have been sent off for this misdemeanour.
Then huge penalty shouts from Yates and Matlock were ignored when Armstrong sent the centre half sprawling.
Matlock won a free-kick in a promising position but Davies shot straight into the wall before Harcourt was adjudged to have caught Short.
Fans close to the incident maintained it was a fair challenge but two yellow cards equalled a red as Matlock’s day went from bad to worse.
Northwich’s professional performance was far too good for Matlock who, as Atkins admitted afterwards, “had four or five players not at the races.”