No win in eight for Town following latest setback

James Lukic v Ashton Utd, 11.04.11
James Lukic v Ashton Utd, 11.04.11

Evo-Stik Premier Division

Monday, April 11, 2011

Ashton United 3

Craig Robinson 25

Liam Dawson 72

Sam Madeley 78

Matlock Town 1

James Lukic 28

Matlock Town: Adam Sollitt, Ben Turner, Lee Featherstone (Kris Witcombe 83), Gareth Davies, Adam Yates, James Lukic, James Knowles (John McAliskey 73), Steve Warne, nathan Joynes, Ross Hannah, Ryan Mallon. Other subs: Paul Sykes, Nick Buxton

Referee: J Waters (Dewsbury)

Star Man: Adam Sollitt.

Some fans have been thinking for the last few games that it’s all over in terms of Matlock reaching the play-offs.

Well, as the old footballing cliche goes, “it is now”.

The Gladiators’ alarming slump now sees them winless in eight league games, plus a League Cup semi-final exit on the same ground seven days earlier. Just two points have been earned in this calamitious run.

On Saturday against Bradford, even in defeat Matlock drew plaudits for their spirit and determination, but here Ashto were often first to pick up the bits.

The Gladiators were also guilty of not playing the easy ball. All too often a more difficult option was chosen.

The contest, in front of a crowd of 122, was in the balance until the midpoint of the second half. With both captains having scored within three first half minutes, the score was level but the Robins increased the tempo and Matlock’s bad habit of conceding sloppy goals returned to leave Town boss Mark Atkins an angry man afterwards.

After a fairly uneventful start, a well-intended reverse pass by Nathan Joynes nearly let in Hannah before Sollitt rescued Matlock with a tremendous tip over the bar from Liam Dawson’s header.

But the respite was brief for the corner was not properly cleared and Craig Robinson fired low past the unsighted Sollitt to give Ashton a 25th minute lead.

Sollitt got in the way of a powerful 25-yarder from Metcalfe before, from Hannah’s superbly taken free kick, James Lukic rose highest to plant a firm header past Smith to equalise.

Shortly afterwards, Hannah’s inswinging corner deceived Smith and, unfortunately, Joynes at the back post. All it needed was a touch.

The half ended with a Steve Warne shot being blocked and Sollitt saving from Rose.

Matlock created the first chance of the second half, a disappointing Mallon strike which drifted wide after Joynes had nodded down a James Knowles cross.

Soon afterwards, an attempt from Dawson flashed narrowly wide after he had cut in from the right.

Matlock were having to defend stoutly but Ashton’s increasing dominance was rewarded on 72 minutes. Lee Jackson had time to weigh up his options on the left before crossing to the onrushing Dawson, who looped a header over Sollitt.

Ashton had the bit between their teeth and put the match beyond the visitors when Madeley, with his back to goal, netted with a fantastic bicycle kick.

Now Matlock have pride to play for. Their play-off hopes may be virtually no more, but the players must show that they want to be part of Mark Atkins’ plans next season.

This was just not good enough.