MATLOCK RFC 1sts rounded off the first half of their Midlands One East season with a 17-15 victory at home to Coalville on Saturday, although the win was not without its alarms.
The injury-depleted squad was further affected both before and during the game by players having to drop out but coach Alan Johnson’s team managed to dig deep to take the points and maintain their sixth position in the league at the halfway point of the campaign.
Finishing the game a man down due to injury and watching the opposition hit the post with a conversion that would have tied the game made for a nailbiting ending.
But Alan Johnson believes Matlock deserved the win and should have put the game out of sight well before the closing stages.
He explained: “We should have been 20-25 points up by half-time.
“We had so much possession in terms of both ball and territory but we didn’t take our chances.
“We were creative and expansive but not quite as much as I know we can be and in the end we were hanging on just to take the win.
“Injuries struck again, which didn’t help, but we have been getting used to that in recent weeks.
“James Shooter had to drop out just before kick-off with a severe migraine and, after more rejigging, we lost both James Young and Tom Hooton to injuries during the game so we played the last 15 minutes with 14 men and they scored two tries in those last ten minutes.
“In fact, Coalville would probably have won it if we’d played five minutes longer and the game would have been drawn if their final conversion hadn’t hit the post, so the final whistle came at just the right time.”
Matlock have won eight and lost six of their 14 games to date, reflecting the topsy-turvy nature of their season.
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But Alan Johnson believes his side displayed some of their best qualities on Saturday, despite only narrowly beating the league’s bottom side in a home encounter.
“Admittedly, we were hanging on at the end, but there were plenty of positives from that game and the lads didn’t shirk the challenge posed by more injuries.
“They showed plenty of character to take the setbacks in their stride because Coalville were in a no-lose situation. “It was a very tense final period but it was a lovely win in the end and great to round off the first half of the season with a win.
“Just before Christmas, it was a nice present and I think in May if you’d told me and and the lads that we’d be sixth at the end of the first half of the season, we’d gladly have taken it.
“I know there’s more to come from us and with injured players likely to be back in January, I think we can really push on.”