Matlock had only themselves to blame for not winning a game they dominated in Cheshire on Saturday.
Witton took all three points as they converted one of the very few opportunities they created while in contrast a generous Matlock squandered theirs, including two excellent ones shortly after Anthony Gardner’s 20th minute winner.
The defeat saw Matlock slide down to tenth spot and until the Gladiators can find that magic formula to find the onion bag on a more regular basis, there could be more days like this.
Performance-wise there was little to complain about. They did everything but score as much of the game was a duel of attack versus defense which Witton won by keeping the clean sheet.
Debutant goalkeeper Jonathan Hedge, brought in on a month’s loan from Grimsby Town, had little else to do. Probably his most strenuous act was to bend down to collect the ball from the back of the net when Witton scored.
He had little chance of stopping the shot as full-back Gardner’s finish was clinical from Witton’s best move of the match. They worked the ball around slickly from the left around the Gladiators penalty box and Gardner was up supplementing the attacking options as he rifled a low drive beyond Hedge from the right.
Just a minute after going behind, the Gladiators should really have equalised. They won a corner on the right which was floated to the back post giving Bradley Grayson a clear and unchallenged header. But with the goal gaping, he glanced wide.
Four minutes later there was another great opportunity when Micky Harcourt raced down the right to deliver an inviting pin-point cross which Danny Holland nodded wide with only goalkeeper Matt Cooper to beat.
Cooper organised the defence well, putting in a faultless display, while central defenders Ben Harrison and Robert Bodie were outstanding as they answered all of the questions asked of them, and there were numerous ones at that.
At half time manager Mark Atkins went to add width by bringing on Lavell White for James Ashmore. The second-half was all Matlock but again they could not finish off many promising situations.
White drove over the bar when well placed on 53 minutes before Joe Leesley came on in an attacking role. He added urgency but at the same time Matlock’s desperation increased.
Grayson chose to shoot from a seemingly impossible angle and his drive flew behind, while both Holland and Leesley had efforts charged down before Liam Needham drove inches wide from 20 yards.
Late on, Cooper made a magnificent stop from Leesley to secure the points for the hosts.
Matlock are now without a league win in five outings and in that time just three goals have been scored.
The positives are the defensive solidarity as apart from a Michael Powell free-kick and a Danny Andrews scooped effort over the top before their goal, Witton created very little.
But had the Gladiators had someone to finish off their excellent approach play with Martin Foster and Needham in charge in midfield, they would probably have won comfortably. Here is where their frustration lies.
Saturday, November 30, 2013
Witton: 1 Matt Cooper 2 Anthony Gardner 3 Ally Brown 4 Ben Harrison 5 Rob Bodie 6 Jonathan Breeze 7 Jonathan Dawson (Neville Thompson 70) 8 Michael Powell 9 Adam Parkhouse 10 Aaron Rey 11 Danny Andrews Other subs: Michael Moseley, Josh Crofts, Josh Hancock, Stuart Plant
Matlock: 1 Jonathan Hedge 2 Micky Harcourt 3 Oscar Radford 4 Martin Foster 5 David Haggerty 6 Adam Yates 7 Liam Needham 8 James Ashmore (Lavell White 46) 9 Danny Holland 10 Bradley Grayson 11 Corey Gregory (Joe Leesley 62) Other subs: Lee Featherstone, Cecil Nyoni, Matty Leese
Ref: M Jones Att: 328 Star Gladiator: Martin Foster
Report by Ian Richardson