Matlock were determined to put last weekend’s horror show against Belper firmly behind them and while it was not a total free flowing performance, there was a marked improvement and it was more like a Paul Phillips’ side display.
With Jamie Sharman suspended, Ashton Hall was given a first start in his defensive slot and Callum Chippendale, after a bright cameo against the Nailers, was named in the Gladiators’ attack.
Both sides initially began positively, a cross from Alex Wiles cannoning off Liam Hughes for a goal kick while at the other end, a fabulous challenge from Sam Egerton denied Scott Bakkor a route to goal.
A dangerous looking centre from the right by Chippendale came to nothing as a theme was developing of a lack of blue shirted bodies in the penalty box, this being the case again on 19 minutes when Hughes flicked on a long throw from Reece Kendall.
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The game then developed into a dour midfield battle with goalscoring opportunities non existent until the dying embers of the half. Kendall saw a shot deflected into the arms of goalkeeper Louis Hood with Rowley then holding a tame volley from Bakkor. Byrne’s daisycutter drifted comfortably wide from a Chippendale assist before Celtic were gifted the lead in stoppage time.
Rowley rashly came charging from his goal to clatter into Bakkor, a decision on reflection which he would have regretted. It was a stonewall penalty and BAKKOR got to his feet to stroke his twelve yarder confidently into the net.
So Matlock had it all to do, a big response was needed and what a response it was!
Whatever was uttered in the dressing room during the interval certainly did the trick! Within eight minutes of the resumption Matlock were in front.
The second period was barely a minute old when Kendall on the left hoisted in a superb centre which the unchallenged BYRNE headed firmly home. It was just what the doctor ordered after the blow of conceding so late in the opening half.
Now Matlock were firmly on the front foot, Byrne again testing Hood with a low shot hit with the outside of his right boot. Kendall’s effort from a Byrne corner cleared the bar before an intricate passing move, begun by Chippendale and continued by target man Hughes released BYRNE on the right to smash a fierce and unstoppable shot past Hood.
Declan Walker was the next to set up Byrne, looking for his hat-trick, Hood spilling the shot, the goalkeeper having fortune on his side as there was nobody present to pick up the pieces.
Matlock comfortably saw out the remainder of the contest, being dominant in defence to such a degree that Rowley had little to do save from plucking a couple of crosses from the afternoon sky.
It was a deserved three points and it probably was manufactured on the wise words of manager Phillips at the interval.
“I told them we’d win the game if we did the right things in the right places. We scored two good goals and importantly got a reaction after last Saturday. We found a way to win.”
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Shaun Rowley 2 Ashton Hall 3 Reece Kendall 4 Sam Egerton 5 Ryan Qualter 6 Mark Lees 7 Alex Byrne 8 Alex Wiles 9 Liam Hughes 10 Callum Chippendale (14 Jesurun Uchegbulam 79) 11 Declan Walker Other subs: 12 Lirak Hasani 15 Kayde Coppin 16 Craig King 17 Paul Cooper
STALYBRIDGE CELTIC: 1 Louis Hood 2 Douglas Nyaupembe (12 Luke Barlow 18) 3 Ashley Smith Brown 4 Ioan Evans 5 Connor O’Grady 6 Shane Killock 7 Keenan Quansah 8 Sam Wedgbury 9 Kieran Wells (16 Jack Ryan 61) 10 Scott Bakkor 11 Jay Fitzmartin (15 Ethan Padden 66) Other sub: 14 Stephen O’Halloran
REFEREE: Matt Tyers (Sheffield) ATTENDANCE: 514 BEST GLADIATOR: Alex Byrne