Anthony Griffiths-Junior’s first league goal for Matlock proved to be the winner as Matlock put together a tremendous battling performance at the Weaver Stadium and avenge the 5-0 horror home defeat by Nantwich on the season’s opening day.
But the three points came at a cost as there was the sickening sight of Oscar Radford being stretchered off to hospital following a horrible tackle by home substitute Josh Lane who was correctly sent off.
That incident, with nine minutes left, put a dampener on the win, and while Radford did not suffer a broken leg as was initially feared, he was left with a deep gash which is likely to keep him on the sidelines for a good few weeks.
The referee took the players off and there was a 20-minute delay so a game that had started nine minutes late in the first place due to match referee Joe Johnson being taken ill, finished shortly before 5.20pm.
Of course Griffiths-Junior and Radford had been rated as non starters after midweek injuries by manager Mark Atkins, but both started, as did Gareth Davies after seven weeks on the sidelines himself.
Martin Foster did not make it though and Laurence Gaughan was suspended, so with Nick Buxton also unavailable, the Gladiators had only three substitutes including youngster James Travis.
Nantwich created the first chance on four minutes when one of four debutants in their line up, former Derby winger Aaron Cole, broke down the left to cross low for Kyle Wilson who fired into the sidenetting.
Then Matlock might have drawn first blood as Massiah McDonald pounced on a mistake by full back Chris jones to dribble around goalkeeper Jon Brain only to lose his balance and the full back was able to atone for his error by clearing the danger.
But McDonald was instrumental in Griffiths-Junior’s goal in the 27th minute, dashing down the right before placing a pin-point centre into his unmarked strike partner’s path who converted comfortably from eight yards.
As the Dabbers sought a swift reply, Wilson curled an effort narrowly wide, but Matlock could easily have doubled their lead in the run up to half time when McDonald was denied by a marvellous goal line clearance by home centre half Charlie Raglan.
The second half was largely a scrappy affair with Matlock working their socks off to deny Nantwich any space. Davies was a calming influence in midfield, breaking up play effectively and ensuring the Gladiators kept their shape.
Nantwich created little and it was the visitors who actually came closest when a free kick from substitute Joe Leesley was deflected wide, quickly followed by Davies shooting a shade too high.
Then after the injury delay Nantwich threw men forward but again Kennedy was not tested as a Jason Oswell header cleared the bar and a powerful Sean Cooke free kick was blocked by skipper James Lukic.
The win extended the Gladiators unbeaten run to six matches in all competitions and a welcome first clean sheet since Boxing Day’s 4-0 win at Rushall.
MATLOCK: Kennedy, Harcourt, Featherstone, Yates, Radford (Dennis 79), Lukic, Grayson, Ashmore, McDonald, Davies, Griffiths-Junior (Leesley 72).
Subs not used: Travis
Referee: J Madine (Liverpool)
Star man: Gareth Davies