Matlock secured their Evo-Stik Premier Division safety with a 3-1 win at Marine on Tuesday night.
Goals from Michael Williams and Callum Chettle gave Town a two goals interval lead but Callum Doyle’s reply seven minutes after the resumption had the visitors wobbling for a short spell until Chettle added a third for the Gladiators in the 68th minute.
It was a six pointer with the Gladiators holding a three point advantage over the Mariners at kick off.
The speedy James Murray caused Matlock a succession of early problems and he was unfortunate not to score in the fourth minute as his shot skimmed the top of the bar.
But Matlock drew first blood in the 11th minute as Marcus Marshall escaped down the right, Williams meeting his inviting centre and scoring at the second time of asking by firing the loose ball fiercely off the underside of the bar after his initial strike had been blocked.
The lead was then doubled on 29 minutes as Chettle hoisted a high ball into the middle which totally and surprisingly deceived 6’7” home custodian Joe Hilton to nestle in the net at the far post.
The third goal would be vital. A blistering Williams volley ended up in Hilton’s midriff but an easy concession of a goal by Matlock in the 52nd minute had the Gladiators on the back foot. Nobody tracked and picked up Doyle who had the easiest of close range headers by the far post.
Matlock hung on grimly, albeit only temporarily as a revitalised Marine held the upper hand, Ross Durrant pushing away Steven Irwin’s power packed 25 yarder before Brett Mblanda lifted a close range effort over the bar and then saw his shot flash across the face of the goal and narrowly beyond the far post.
In between Mblanda’s attempts, Williams fired directly at Hilton after a quickly taken throw on the left.
Matlock desperately needed a third goal for breathing space and it came when Chettle was played clear through the middle as the home defence opened up alarmingly, and although Hilton saved his first effort, Chettle was alert enough to follow up and slip home the loose ball.
The Marine threat dissipated, save for Durrant knocking away a 35 yard bullet from Irwin and the goal had re-established Matlock’s dominance.
Sensible game management followed in the closing stages, Matlock using all three permitted substitutes and wisely retaining possession and their control of the game.
They leapt back up to 12th and may have eyes on Whitby and Hyde, five points ahead of them, in their closing four games.
If they repeat this performance, they may stand a good chance of a top ten finish.