Matlock Town 1, Kendal Town 0
An Ian Holmes penalty after just 14 minutes decided a scrappy affair with little goalmouth action at the Reynolds Stadium.
Matlock will not worry one iota about the entertainment value on this occasion.
Yes, it’s nice to win with flair, but sometimes it is satisfying to win ugly.
The Gladiators were desperate to win, having collected just a solitary point from six coming into the match. It was a case of doing the basics well, defending with authority, and to their credit Mark Atkins’ men did exactly that.
They even had to do it with just ten men for the final six minutes plus four minutes of stoppage time after the bizarre sending off of key midfielder Gareth Davies. He re entered the field of play without consent from the referee, a cautionable offence. Having already received a booking it was two yellows making a red.
Kendal arrived fresh after their midweek game at Northwich was called off, and in ebullient mood from a 3-0 thumping of Worksop seven days earlier.
The visitors won a corner in the opening seconds as Lukic was forced to head out a dangerous looking centre which Yates initially misjudged.
Matlock moved quickly to the other end and persistence on the part of TJ Nightingale earned the Gladiators a free kick. The experienced Shaun Gregan headed Chris Bettney’s usual excellent delivery over his own bar.
But a pattern of a stern midfield battle was emerging.
It was doubtful whether either side would have scored if referee Joseph Simpson had not awarded Matlock their spot kick.
The young Stockport official was eagle eyed to spot a push by goalkeeper Craig Dootson on Holmes. After the usual delay and some gamesmanship by Dootson, Holmes stepped up to rattle his shot into the roof of the net for his second goal of the season.
The war of attrition continued with Matlock receiving due credit for a hard-working performance. There was a sniff of an opportunity on 29 minutes when Micky Harcourt, a collosus on the day, was booked for bringing down Alex Taylor a couple of yards outside the penalty box.
The free kick, in a central position, was an open invitation for the often lethal shot of Kiaran Walmesley. The shot had venom but too much height as it cleared the bar by a yard.
A cross by Lee Featherstone reached Nightingale whose header ricocheted through to Dootson before the half ended with Harcourt denying Taylor at the back post following a cross from the right.
There was a hint of an opening for striker Gary McEvatt two minutes after the interval, but he badly misdirected his header after being found by a Mark Peers cross. Now it was a case of mainly Kendal on the attack, but they did not show sufficient ingenuity to break down a mean Matlock rearguard.
Jon Kennedy easily gathered long range efforts from McEvatt and Peers and a desperate Cieran Donnelly dragged a shot with little power well wide. The visitors forced two quick corners before Walmsley decided to cross rather than shoot, the wrong option as Harcourt was again in the thick of things to clear his lines.
Now the referee in his second game at this level was losing control as several fruity challenges by players on both sides were allowed to stand, with davies’ sending off coming as a result of one of these.
But this time Matlock did not crack. Neither did they look like cracking. There was a steely determination to earn that vital first win. It might have been better deep into stoppage time as James Knowles and Steve Warne broke in tandem. But like a lot of other moves from both sides on the day it petered out before the final whistle was greeted by cheers of relief and hearty “well dones” from management, players and fans.
A good Kendal side had been negated. Pretty it wasn’t, effective it certainly was!
Matlock: Kennedy, Harcourt, Featherstone, King, Yates, Lukic, Bettney, Nightingale ( Bowler 62), Holmes (Knowles 90),
Davies, Whittington (Warne 72). Unused subs: Witcombe, Joynes.