A home banker turned into a nightmare for Matlock who were on the end of a shock defeat.
Struggling Stafford, in third bottom spot, with just two away wins at already doomed Droylsden and all but relegated Stocksbridge, rode their luck due to atrocious Matlock finishing to inflict only the Gladiators’ second defeat of the season at the Autoworld Arena.
And Matlock’s afternoon was made much worse when David Haggerty, potentially Matlock’s player of the season, was stretchered off in the 65th minute with a facial injury that could end his season.
Matlock badly missed the suspended Shaun Tuton. His replacement Daryll Thomas had an afternoon to forget, missing a hatful of chances.
Lavell White looked lively early on but all too often he lacked the quality final product. As Matlock bombarded the Rangers goal, Haggerty had a fourth minute header cleared off the line.
Thomas was unlucky with a diving header from a left wing cross at the far post but also missed some far easier opportunities, including one from less than a yard out. Then on 42 minutes James Ashmore drove too high from an excellent position.
But there was a nasty and painful sting in the tail for Matlock. Stafford had scarcely been over the halfway line but when they broke forward through Daniel Cope down the right, his cross caught Joe Leesley on the hand and a penalty was awarded.
Andrew Griffiths confidently tucked away the spot kick and Rangers had a valuable but undeserved lead having had the wind at their backs.
Straight after the restart Thomas somehow headed against the bar from two yards out to increase his own personal and his side’s frustration.
The game was handed to Stafford on 57 minutes when from a free-kick, Jon Kennedy hesitated and substitute James McCarthy looped a header into the net.
White shot too high from another fine position, Jones saved superbly from Leesley and Danny Holland before Thomas spurned another great chance, his shot skimming wide from 16 yards with only Jones to beat as a defeat was confirmed that has in all probability ended Matlock’s play-off hopes.
Saturday, March 15, 2014
Matlock: 1 Jon Kennedy 2 Micky Harcourt 3 Joe Leesley 4 Martin Foster (Corey Gregory 58) 5 David Haggerty (Cecil Nyoni 65) 6 Adam Yates 7 Liam Needham 8 James Ashmore 9 Danny Holland 10 Daryll Thomas (Alex Bradshaw 89) 11 Lavell White Unused subs: Liam Gaughan, Matty Leese
Stafford Rangers: 1 Andrew Jones 2 Andrew Griffiths 3 Oliver Davies 4 Joe Ballinger 5 Darren Bullock 6 Lewis Chalmers (Chris Smith 65) 7 Levi Reid 8 Ian Craney 9 Matthew Berkeley (James McCarthy 53) 10 Dan Cope (Saul Henderson 78) 11 Alex Curtis Unused subs: Jack Lees, Matt Johnson Ref: D Street
Att: 346 Best Gladiator: Micky Harcourt
Report by Ian Richardson