Matlock picked up a first away win of 2016 with a resounding 3-0 victory at Ramsbottom.
The miniscule element of doubt concerning the Gladiators’ Premier Division status was convincingly removed on a cold, spring Lancashire night as Matlock recorded a quickfire double over the basement club.
Having won 2-0 in the home clash just nine days earlier, Matlock went one better in the return and repeated their devastating start from the first clash by going two goals ahead inside ten minutes.
The victors took their foot off the pedal in the last third of the opening period and the opening ten minutes after the break when Ramsbottom had their best spell, but once Joel Purkiss had added his second, the points were emphatically on their way back to the Autoworld Arena.
Barely a minute had elapsed when Purkiss was played clear of a square and static Ramsbottom defence waiting for an offside flag that never came.
Purkiss remained calm and cool to lob a deadly finish over the exposed Grant Shenton.
Charlie Dawes was then on hand to slot home a low cross from the right which had been intelligently dummied by Ted Cribley.
Captain for the night Liam Needham struck a 20-yard effort over the bar with Dawes twice doing likewise with Ramsbottom all at sea in defence.
Niall McManus had netted in all of Matlock’s three previous ties with the Rams and he had a chance to continue that run on the half hour when he surged past a defender, but slightly off-balance, he sliced wide from 18 yards.
An uneven bobbly surface made life challenging for both sides with Rammy’s opening threat not coming until the 32nd minute when George Willis did well to knock away veteran striker Steve Foster’s strike with Daniel Wilkins pulling the follow up wide.
But Town came close to extending their lead in the 40th minute, Ball’s cross shot being parried by Shenton towards Purkiss who could only tamely prod the ball back towards the goalkeeper.
The hosts’ most creative attacker Alex Meaney had Willis stretching to tip away a long-range attempt shortly before the break.
Willis then denied Meaney again who had hit a spectacular shot two minutes into the second period.
Shortly afterwards Jack Siddall replaced McManus and was soon making a positive impact with a huge assist for Town’s third goal in the 57th minute.
Siddall outpaced Andrew Smart on the right, his teasing centre only being palmed to by an overstretching Shenton to Purkiss who gleefully pushed the loose ball into an open net.
Siddall struck the post as he poked Ben Algar’s through pass beyond Shenton, the ball bouncing along the goal line before Matlock’s second substitute of the evening, Liam Gaughan, did his best to get in on the act as he charged down a Shenton clearance, Shenton and Ramsbottom being relieved to see no further damage being inflicted on them.
With the points safely secured and Blyth Spartans coming to Matlock 36 hours later, Matlock were content to keep Ramsbottom firmly at arms length.
Substitute Jake Cliffe’s late header was near as they got to piercing Matlock’s clean sheet, the ball dropping narrowly wide as stoppage time began.
This victory, albeit against a poor, struggling, demoralised and already demoted outfit saw Matlock leap three places up the table to 14th.