Matlock were outfought and outplayed by a strong Spennymoor Town outfit who look certainties for a play-off spot in what turned out to be a painful night for the Gladiators and their fans with a 4-0 home defeat.
The hosts’ hopes of a top five finish now hang by the thinnest of threads as they had no answer to stop a side who were simply better than Matlock all over the field on the night.
The match was over as a contest by the 26th minute as the Moors netted three goals in a devastating 10 and a half minute spell and, as in the league match between the sides in County Durham two weeks earlier, the Moors were three in front at the interval.
Then Matlock made a game of it by scoring twice, but this time Spennymoor had learned their lesson, adding a fourth on 57 minutes to force Matlock into a damage limitation exercise.
There was no sign of what was to come in the opening minutes. Marcus Dinanga burst into the area and the ball appeared to catch the hand of Kallum Griffiths, but penalty appeals were waved away.
Then the effervescent Niall McManus robbed Isaac Baldwin on the edge of the box only to shoot wide. It proved to be a missed chance that the Gladiators would regret.
Spennymoor, who challenged for just about everything, could have made hay from a couple of sliced passes, the second a hoisted lob into the box which Ramshaw headed over the bar.
But Matlock then pressed the self destruct button.
Spennymoor are a good side and teams of their quality take full advantage when chances are presented to them on a plate.
Their first gift came on 16 minutes when Matlock had ample opportunity to clear their lines from a Moors break down the right. But Ramshaw, who gave Rhys Sharpe a torrid time, managed to wriggle his way clear to roll a low centre across the six yard box to provide Graeme Armstrong with an easy tap-in.
Dinanga met a McManus cross but could only knock the ball wide, but Ramshaw was soon robbing Sharpe again to pull the ball back for Griffiths, who pulled his shot a yard past Phil Barnes’ left hand post.
The Moors doubled the lead in the 23rd minute when neither Adam Yates nor Dwayne Wiley could deal effectively with Glen Taylor who flicked a long pass into Andrew Johnson’s path for the number 11 to comfortably sidestep Barnes and trundle the ball into the vacant net.
Taylor and Armstrong were proving to be an almighty handful, and rarely can Yates and Wiley have had such a tough time of it as this.
Taylor then added a third with a spectacular 30 yard half-volley that roared into the roof of the net.
It all left Matlock in disarray and total shock, but they steadied the ship somewhat until the interval with the only other dangerous moment coming when Taylor steered his header wide from a Johnson cross.
There was early promise after the interval when Dinanga did well to fashion a chance with a low cross from the left which was narrowly out of the onrushing McManus’ radar.
Two corners quickly followed which Spennymoor defended with conviction lacking in Matlock’s rearguard action before half-time.
Then they broke to make it four when Ramshaw kept the ball in play on the right and, with Matlock not playing to the whistle, his ball forward was clinically finished by Armstrong with a shot off the underside of the bar.
Matlock took the unusual step of a triple substitution, but the horse had by now well and truly bolted out of the stable door.
To their credit the Gladiators kept on plugging away, but a streetwise Spennymoor team simply had too much strength and know-how to let Matlock back in the game.
Johnson saw a shot pushed wide by Barnes in a lightening counter attack before Taylor whipped a fierce strike across the goalmouth as there appeared to be more chance of the Moors going nap than Matlock finding a consolation.
Substitute Marc Newsham looked as if he would find the required contact to meet Sharpe’s long throw, but again a Spennymoor boot intervened and Dinanga fired into goalkeeper Dan Lowson’s midriff as the match passed the 90th minute.
Matlock just wanted the final whistle to blow. They have seldom been found wanting this season, but this time it was a case of them holding their hands up and admitting they were clearly second best.
MATLOCK TOWN: Phil Barnes, Liam Marsden, Rhys Sharpe, Joe Doyle-Charles, Adam Yates, Dwayne Wiley, Niall Mcmanus, Cleveland Taylor (Andy Wright 62), Michael Williams (Marc Newsham 62), Marcus Dinanga, Ted Cribley (Jamie Yates 62). Subs not used: Jake Green, Nico Degirolamo.
SPENNYMOOR TOWN: Dan Lowson, Kallum Griffiths, Chris Mason, Jamie Chandler, Isaac Baldwin, James Curtis, Robert Ramshaw, Shane Henry (Adam Mitchell 73), Glen Taylor (Nathan Fisher 80), Graeme Armstrong (David Dowson 73) Andrew Johnson. Subs not used: Joe Tait, Ian Watson.
REFEREE: Luke Watson of Barnsley.
BEST GLADIATOR: Niall McManus.