Dwayne Wiley’s bullet header from a 48th-minute corner was enough for Matlock Town to defeat Altrincham 1-0 a day when sheer hard work and determination won the day over quality.
The delivery of the flag kick by Rhys Sharpe from the right, though, was first class, and Wiley, with a run at attacking the teasing centre, simply powered in his header.
Altrincham goalkeeper Anthony Thompson got a hand to but did not have a hope of keeping it out.
Matlock have seven points from three games, while Alty, one of the Northern Premier League pre-season favourites for the title, have just a solitary point so far.
It was the visitors’ James Poole who had the first strike at goal, a speculative third-minute 25-yarder being held by Phil Barnes to his right.
Altrincham continued to attack but Matlock should have gone in front in the 12th minute when the electric pace of Darnelle Bailey-King saw him race beyond Tom Hannigan, only to shoot wide of the far post in a one-on-one with Thompson. In the next minute Alty fullback Simon Richman brought down Ted Cribley and after he was booked, Jake Green’s free kick was fingertipped aside by Thompson.
This was a good spell of pressure from Matlock with Wiley having a 19th minute chance from a carbon copy of his goal, which he glanced wide.
Poole looked to be the Alty dangerman, firing too high on 25 minutes before Joe Doyle-Charles blocked another strike at the expense of a fruitless corner.
A half chance fell the Gladiators way five minutes before the interval. Shaun Harrad, always stretching to meet a Green cross, volleyed wide.
The half ended with the visitors forcing a succession of corners, but without the tenacity to make their pressure count.
Matlock soon had Altrincham on the back foot after the break with the goal and they looked to build on their advantage as Sharpe, moved into a striking role with Cribley now out on the wing, fired a low shot narrowly wide of the far post on 55 minutes. It was his last contribution as he limped off to be replaced by Tyler Blake.
Doyle-Charles drove comfortably wide before Blake broke away on the left, his hanging centre being nodded over the bar by Harrad. In between those chances, Barnes did well to get behind a stinging drive from Poole, who then on 73 minutes fired narrowly wide from 25 yards.
Doyle-Charles received a 78th-minute caution for fouling Poole as the homesters were being pushed further back as the Robins increased the pressure.
But with Wiley earning his man-of-the-match rating through excellent defending as well as the goal, ably supported by Adam Yates, Nico Degirolamo and Jake Green, Matlock defended resolutely as Altrincham struggled in vain for a breakthrough.
Barnes backed them up with assured handling and when called for pulling off a fine tip over the bar from a twenty yard power packed drive by substitute Sam Sheridan in stoppage time.
That would be as close as Altrincham would come as Matlock could reflect on a battling performance rather than one full of attacking flair, but nevertheless it was a job well done.
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Phil Barnes 2 Nico Degirolamo 3 Jake Green 4 Joe Doyle-Charles 5 Adam Yates 6 Dwayne Wiley 7 Darnelle Bailey-King (15 Luis Rose 71) 8 Callum Lloyd 9 Shaun Harrad 10 Ted Cribley 11 Rhys Sharpe (17 Tyler Blake 55). Other subs: 12 Marc Newsham 14 Ryan Wilson 16 Zeyn Hakeem.
ALTRINCHAM: 1 Anthony Thompson 2 Simon Richman 3 Lewis Short 4 Tom Hannigan 5 Ben Harrison 6 Jake Moult 7 John Johnston (14 Jordan Hulme 66) 8 Laurence Taylor (12 Sam Sheridan 70) 9 Tom Peers 10 James Poole 11 Josh Hancock. Other subs: 15 John Disney 16 Chris Lynch 17 Tim Deasy.
REFEREE: Richard Watson (Cannock)
BEST GLADIATOR: Dwayne Wiley