Matlock Town 1-2 Witton Albion: Matlock’s recent unbeaten run in league and cup came to an end in a scrappy affair against play-off-chasing Witton who basically scored from their two attempts at goal, one of those being a penalty.
But Matlock, in spite of having more of the play, did not create very much more themselves in terms of clear cut chances. In short, it was a game that will not live long in the memory bank.
To add to their problems, there was the unwelcome sight of a key Gladiators defender being stretchered off for the second week running. Oscar Radford, who was at the game on crutches, was carried off at Nantwich and this time it was skipper James Lukic who went down in agony holding his knee in a quite random incident.
Thankfully it appears as though it is just a sprain and the Matlock leader was able to drive home afterwards with the hope that he will be in the line up to face Chorley at the weekend.
Will Dennis replaced the suspended Micky Harcourt and with Anthony Griffiths-Junior not fully fit, new signing Lavell White made his debut with Griffiths-Junior on the bench.
Offside decisions halted progress for both sides in a tame start and it was fully seventeen minutes before the first shot in anger came when White cut in from the left to find Massiah McDonald who unselfishly set up James Ashmore who drove high and wide from twenty yards.
Ten minutes later came the best opportunity from open play of the half when this time it was Ashmore feeding McDonald who shrugged off Danny Meadowcroft but his shot bounced a couple of yards past goalkeeper Stuart Plant’s right hand post.
But Witton struck out of the blue in the 32nd minute as Lukic’s clearing header went out for a corner, appearing to brush an Albion attacker en route. But the flag kick was given and in rising to head clear, Lee Featherstone was ruled to have handled and Anthony Gardner scored from the spot.
Soon afterwards Gareth Davies and Oliver James were lectured after a clash in midfield before Lukic was booked for a harmless looking foul on Shaun Tuck. White pulled a shot disappointingly wide and then at the other end a tremendous tackle by Adam Yates denied Tuck a run at goal.
Then came the Lukic injury with Laurence Gaughan deputising at the heart of the defence.
Fans would be hoping for a much improved second half but they would be disappointed as again quality was largely lacking from both sides, that is apart from the two goals.
Witton doubled their lead just before the hour when Tuck and Sheehan combined sweetly and the Albion skipper kept his composure to fire beyond ex Witton goalkeeper Jon Kennedy. The goal came shortly after James fouled McDonald, injured himself doing so and while being helped off was booked for his troubles.
Matlock brought on Griffiths Junior for the last quarter of the contest which was played almost exclusively in the Witton half.
Davies floated a free kick over the bar as Matlock desperately needed a reply. Gaughan had a free header from a corner which he directed straight at Plant, but they gave themselves hope with fourteen minutes remaining.
Ashmore’s free kick from the left was only partially cleared to McDonald on the edge of the penalty box, but it was Martin Foster just behind him who smashed an unstoppable shot into the onion bag to halve the deficit.
But despite their late dominance, the Gladiators created little else of note, save for a Griffiths-Junior shot which flashed narrowly wide after an assist from Bradley Grayson. This was perhaps due to the hosts being too predictable and Witton’s no-nonsense defending won the day.
It was a disappointing afternoon from the Matlock viewpoint, although the inexperienced Dennis did well in Harcourt’s absence.
Witton’s Matthew Wood was the game’s third and final booking for bringing down McDonald in that late and fruitless Matlock assault.
MATLOCK TOWN: 1. Jon Kennedy 2 Will Dennis (15 Ryan Hindley 86) 3 Lee Featherstone 4 Martin Foster 5 Adam Yates 6 James Lukic (12 Laurence Gaughan 44) 7 Bradley Grayson 8 James Ashmore 9 Massiah McDonald 10 Gareth Davies 11 Lavell White (14 Anthony Griffiths-Junior 67) Other subs: 16 James Travis 17 Nick Buxton.
WITTON ALBION: 1 Stuart Plant 2 Anthony Gardner 3 Matthew Wood 4 Ben Harrison 5 Daniel Meadowcroft 6 Anthony Sheehan 7 Joe Shaw (14 Josh Hancock 63) 8 Oliver James (15 Josh Glover 57) 9 Shaun Tuck (12 Steve Foster 74) 10 Michael Powell 11 Danny Andrews Other subs: 16 Mike Moseley 17 Adam Bettley
REFEREE: S Eagland (Lichfield) ATTENDANCE: 313 STAR GLADIATOR:Adam Yates