All the goals came in a remarkably open first half as Matlock gained three priceless points in this six-pointer towards the bottom end of the Evo-Stik NPL Premier Division on Saturday.
Grantham arrived at the Reynolds Stadium a point behind the Gladiators but having played four games more, so this win for Matlock puts the Gingerbreads in deeper strife, while allowing Mark Atkins’ men a little extra breathing space.
It wasn’t vintage Matlock by any stretch of the imagination as the pressure of a poor home record and not having won a Saturday league game at the Reynolds Stadium was a weight on their shoulders, but they dug in impressively in the second half, defending with purpose as Grantham enjoyed the lion’s share of the possession.
Fortunately the visitors created little of substance in spite of their pressure and actually the clearer chances fell to the hosts to put the game to bed.
Grantham, managed by former Gladiator Gary Sucharewycz, made a bright start as a cross from Karl Demidh on the left narrowly evaded the onrushing Alex Troke but after Massiah McDonald earned Matlock a corner on the left in the 5th minute, the scoring began.
James Lukic met James Ashmore’s delivery with a volley which was blocked but the ball spun up for Lewis McMahon to head in his 18th goal of the season.
Matlock then had opportunities to build on that lead. On eight minutes McDonald was wildly off target with the goal seemingly gaping before him following Grantham skipper Sam Saunders giving the ball away cheaply in midfield.
After Sam Puricoe was harshly booked for fouling Joe Leesley, McMahon’s free kick was pushed aside by goalkeeper James Martin for a corner from which the excellent Adam Yates, pushed into midfield, glanced wide when again a goal looked certain.
But Grantham came forward with purpose and were rewarded with a 15th minute equaliser as a Nathan Watson corner caused havoc in the Matlock six yard box and was scrambled just over the line by Grant Brindley, the assistant referee signalling the goal from the touchline.
Yet again the achilles heel of being unable to defend set pieces raised its ugly head for Matlock who were fortunate almost immediately as Rhys Lewis cannoned a header against the bar from a Watson free kick.
Lukic was booked for a foul on Troke before Matlock went back in front in the 25th minute. Brad Grayson fed McDonald on the right and after a direct thrust from the Matlock number nine the ball was played square to GRAYSON whose first shot was blocked by Martin only for the winger to nod the loose ball over the prostrate goalkeeper.
There soon followed a bizarre incident as McMahon and Deon Meikle clashed with the referee firstly brandishing a red card before booking both protaginists who had clashed just outside the visiting penalty box.
The fourth goal of the afternoon arrived in the 32nd minute as Demidh cut in from the right to crack a firm drive goalwards which Jon Kennedy could only help over the line.
The Gingerbreads swept forward but were undone three minutes from the break when they left themselves short of cover at the back. An attack broke down and McMahon slipped a routine pass left to McDonald who burst forward and beat Martin with a low drive from the edge of the box.
More goals looked on the cards for the second half but the Gladiators no nonsense defending won the day. Even a double substitution for the visitors failed to bring about any improvement for the visitors who never really suggested they could find the goal to salvage a draw.
But when Matlock got forward they looked a whole lot more dangerous. McDonald fed Leesley who in turn found Adam Yates whose shot was blocked before some wonderful skill on the left by McDonald saw him leave the Grantham defence for dead with Martin doing well to get to ground and tip the ball aside for an unproductive corner.
Then Martin held a snapshot from Lukic before on 85 minutes he produced a magnificent save to keep out a close range strike from McMahon who had been superbly picked out by McDonald. It was a good moment for Martin, who on his last visit to the Reynolds Stadium for an FA Trophy tie with Bedworth United, left shell-shocked after conceding 10 with Ross Hannah bagging seven of them on his own.
Then in the dying seconds McMahon was unlucky again, turning smartly before his low cross shot bounced agonisingly wide of the back post.
Grantham had lacked the guile to break down a stubborn Matlock in thaat second half, and although from the Matlock viewpoint, it was not pretty to watch at times, it was a case of job done, three vital points in the locker and hopefully a monkey off their backs.
MATLOCK: Kennedy, Harcourt, Roe, Yates, Radford, Lukic, Grayson (Foster 79), Ashmore, McDonald, McMahon, Leesley (Griffiths-Junior 73).
Subs not used: Ellington, Hunter, Buxton.
Referee: S Eagland (Lichfield).
Star man: Adam Yates.