Promotion-chasing Matlock Town held to stalemate by Nantwich

Matlock had to settle for another home stalemate despite a dominant first half when they twice struck the woodwork, writes Ian Richardson.

Sunday, 17th April 2022, 12:26 pm

They could not repeat the dominance after the interval when Nantwich came back into the game and another masterclass defensive performance from the Gladiators ensured that the spoils would be shared.

With Joe Young out with concussion, Paul Cooper was given a start between the sticks and Jamie Sharman replaced Adam Yates in defence. Callum Chippendale returned after injury and Luke Daly was included in the midfield with Liam Hughes passing a fitness check on an injured knee.

Cooper was competent in the little amount he had to do, only being extended once when Sean Cooke’s deflected 40th minute strike was pushed around the post by the diving Cooper.

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It was a day of frustration for Matlock Town.

Matlock made a bright start in the Easter Saturday sunshine in front of a 633 crowd.

Chippendale’s low shot from the edge of the box produced a fine diving stop from Matt Gould with 4 minutes on the clock before Gould fingertipped a shot from Daly over the bar four minutes later. Then within another three minutes the woodwork saved Nantwich from going behind, an instinctive volley by Hughes cannoning back off the bar with Gould this time motionless.

Hughes had earlier been key at the other end, heading away a Nantwich corner with Cooper confidently catching the recycled cross.

There was a controversial moment on 19 minutes when Josh Langley elbowed Jesurun Uchegbulam in the head. It looked to be in the penalty area but the Dabbers got two huge slices of luck with Langley only receiving a yellow card and a free kick being awarded virtually on the eighteen yard line. Kendall’s strike looped up into the air off a defender and Uchegbulam’s header was comfortably grasped by Gould.

Cooper was off his line swiftly to boot clear when an uncharacteristic error from Ryan Qualter presented the ball to Bickerstaff but there was another chance for Matlock soon afterwards, Uchegbulam losing control at the vital moment when through on goal before Gould then held a strike from Byrne.

Matlock should really have been ahead by this point and another opportunity came their way in the 28th minute, Qualter heading over from a Byrne corner, opportunities like these were being taken earlier in the campaign .

With two minutes of the opening half remaining, the Gladiators struck the woodwork again. Initially Uchegbulam had a great chance cutting inside to see his shot charged down by Langley at the expense of a corner from which Hughes headed against the post with Sharman blasting the loose ball wide.

So half time came with a familiar story in recent home games of Matlock dominance, deserving to be ahead but with a blank scoresheet from a good performance.

Solid defending from Sharman and Kendall blotted out a Joe Robins shot for the visitors who were showing more attacking intent in the second half. A Jacob Bickerstaffe shot squeezed narrowly wide but Matlock still held territorial advantage without looking as threatening as they had done in the first period.

Byrne though looked as if he might break the deadlock but again a Nantwich green shirt deflected his on target shot away for a corner from which Hughes nodded over the bar. A tame strike from distance by substitute Osebi Abadaki was easily claimed by Gould as it became increasingly likely that yet another 0-0 draw , Matlock’s third at home in succession, would result.

A Kendall header and a long ranger from substitute Dan Greenfield both sailed over the bar late on as Matlock settled for the point and a fifth successive clean sheet. Wins for fellow play off contenders Scarborough, Warrington and Bamber Bridge narrowed the gap but Matlock must still be a good bet to make the top five and extend the season.

There was plenty of effort and application with Mark Lees in midfield putting in another 100 per cent performance to supplement the excellence of the defence.

MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Paul Cooper 2 Jamie Sharman 3 Reece Kendall 4 Ioan Evans 5 Ryan Qualter 6 Mark Lees 7 Alex Byrne 8 Callum Chippendale (14 Osebi Abadaki 55) 9 Liam Hughes 10 Luke Daly (17 Dan Greenfield 55) 11 Jesurun Uchegbulam (15 Ross Hannah 80) Other subs: 12 Alex Wiles 16 Reece Webb-Foster

NANTWICH TOWN: 1 Matt Gould 2 Joel Stair 3 Jamie Morgan (14 Matty Devine 72) 4 Troy Bourne 5 Josh Langley 6 Matt Bell 7 Akiel Raffie 8 Joe Robins 9 Jacob Bickerstaff 10 Sean Cooke 11 Kole Hall Other subs: 12 Joe Malkin 15 Connor Heath 16 Luke Nock 17 Jonathan Moran

REFEREE: Gareth Thomas (Wakefield) ATTENDANCE: 633 BEST GLADIATOR: Mark Lees