Tuesday night’s Evo-Stik NPL Premier Division relegation battle at the Autoworld Arena was certainly a dramatic affair with the Gladiators securing a third successive league victory against an ill disciplined Belper outfit who finished the game with nine men.
If Matlock had been more ruthless they would surely have netted a hatful against the division’s basement club who now need a miracle to avoid the drop.
Belper lost the plot from only the eighth minute when Jonathan Williams was sent off by referee Steven Meredith who ruled that the midfielder had denied Niall McManus a clear scoring chance when he brought him on the left hand edge of the box.
The red card might have been harsh, but Belper’s conduct for the rest of the match was indefensible and they could have no further complaints with punishments handed to them by the man in the middle.
It swiftly got far worse for the Nailers as Otis Khan, who had seen an earlier effort saved, cleverly threaded his low free-kick into the far corner of the net, comprehensively beating goalkeeper Danny Haystead.
If that wasn’t severe enough on Belper, a second Matlock goal followed in the next minute as captain Danny Holland slammed home a fabulous 22-yard strike after being found by McManus.
Belper’s first attempt came 17 minutes in with Paul Grimes firing harmlessly over the top after slack defending, but Belper were a shambles at the back and Matlock could and probably should have extended their lead as Ted Cribley’s shot was deflected wide and McManus lobbed too high from distance.
After Richard Adams drove a couple of yards wide for Belper, Cribley’s free-kick saw Holland flick over the bar.
Belper had a better spell as Khan knocked a Paul Lister attempt off the line, before at the other end Holland chipped behind from a tight angle and then saw a shot deflect wide from Muhammed Sabo’s downward header following a free-kick.
Just a minute after the re-start Holland’s pass from Micky Harcourt’s throw on the right released Khan whose low strike struck Haystead’s legs, the move continuing as Josh Meade drove wide from long range.
Then in the 50th minute Phil Watt was sent for an early bath, a second bookable offence the reason for crudely flying into Cribley.
After McManus shot into the side netting, Matlock lost concentration badly as a misunderstanding in defence saw former Gladiator Jason Stokes break through and calmly side foot past Jon Kennedy to halve the deficit in the 61st minute.
But within 30 seconds it was game over as Matlock broke with devastating effect for Oscar Radford to fire home low off a post from 25 yards.
Holland planted a free header straight at Haystead, Cribley hit a defender with another strike, before late on substitute Bradley Kerr had two golden chances to make it a rout, only to hit Haystead and then slice too high.
Kerr also had a late goal disallowed for offside but the points were secure for the hosts, albeit not as emphatically as their performance merited.
Tuesday, February 17, 2015:
Matlock: 1 Jon Kennedy 2 Micky Harcourt 3 Oscar Radford 4 Josh Meade 5 Muhammed Sabo 6 Julian Banton 7 Ted Cribley (Bradley Kerr 84) 8 Liam Needham 9 Otis Khan 10 Danny Holland (Adam Yates 85) 11 Niall McManus. Subs not used: Scott Maxfield, Grant Black, Mark Hume
Belper: 1 Dan Haystead 2 Ben Turner 3 Richard Adams 4 Paul Lister (Matt Varley 79) 5 Phil Watt 6 Ian Ross (Steve Warne 71) 7 Jonathan Williams 8 Michael Towey 9 Paul Grimes 10 Jon Froggatt 11 Jason Stokes (Rob Stevenson 79). Subs not used: N/A
Ref: S Meredith (Mansfield)
Star Gladiator: Danny Holland