If ever the Gladiators and their fans needed an almost perfect performance and more importantly three precious points, then Easter Saturday was the day.
And Mark Hume’s men came up trumps with the cards firmly on the table. Another defeat and another error-laden performance would have them deep in relegation trouble.
That scenario never looked likely in a determined and skilful performance with the 3-1 margin actually flattering the hosts who still had faint hopes of a play-off spot before kick off. The win gave Matlock their third league double of the campaign with Barwell having lost by the same scoreline at the Autoworld Arena back in August.
Matlock were a joy to watch. They scored three excellent goals through Danny Holland, Otis Khan and Jamie McDonagh, the last one from McDonagh being a candidate for goal of the season.
Barwell are a tall, physical side and Matlock firstly had to win the initial battle and not concede, which they did effectively with both Adam Yates and Julian Banton outstanding.
Malcolm Melvin knocked a right wing cross too high in the third minute before Jon Kennedy comfortably held a long range blast from Nigel Julien.
It was the Gladiators though who created the first clear cut opening on nine minutes when Ted Cribley won a free-kick which was played forward for Holland who scuffed his shot in a one-on-one with goalkeeper Liam Castle who pushed the ball aside.
That opportunity though acted as a springboard for Matlock to dominate proceedings with McDonagh having a powerful strike well blocked by Danny Jenno and when Cribley played Khan in, the ball bobbled awkwardly and the chance was lost.
But Khan would play a major role in Town’s opening goal in the 28th minute as he weaved his way in from the right to shoot low towards the opposite corner of the net. Castle could only parry the ball to the waiting Holland who rolled in the rebound.
Castle parried another effort, this time from McDonagh, before the one scary moment for Matlock came on 37 minutes.
Anthony Carney’s cross to the back post was met by Dominic Brennan but Kennedy was alert to the danger, superbly tipping Brennan’s header over the bar.
That proved to be a pivotal moment as Matlock further increased the tempo and they doubled their lead in the 44th minute.
A neat, controlled build up which was started by McDonagh saw possession passed on to Niall McManus whose accurate low cross was swept home by Khan from eight yards.
Two could quite conceivably have been four by half-time as an impudent flick off his standing foot by McDonagh cannoned back off the bar and in another raid, Oscar Radford had two goalbound strikes heroically blocked and Holland had a shot cleared off the line.
Matlock needed to carry on the good work into the second-half and the insurance of a third goal gave them full command on 53 minutes.
A corner was cleared as far as McDonagh 30 yards out who hit an instant first time and waist high volley just inside the post which nearly burst the net and left a bemused Castle wondering just what had occurred.
Sensing an embarrassing hammering, Barwell responded positively and pulled a goal back within three minutes as Brennan turned to fire past Kennedy from 12 yards but despite some route one pressure, the Matlock goal never came under serious threat.
On the break Town continued to look dangerous. A Micky Harcourt piledriver flew inches wide and Holland lifted a great chance over the bar when McDonagh seized upon a sliced Castle clearance to feed his skipper, but the job was well done for Matlock and the bar set high for their remaining crucial games.
Saturday, April 4, 2015:
Barwell: 1 Liam Castle 2 Declan Towers 3 Eddie Nisevic 4 Danny Jenno 5 Jamie Hood 6 Nigel Julian 7 Alex Tomkinson 8 Malcolm Melvin (Kieron Brehon 58) 9 Dominic Brennan 10 Jamie Towers 11 Anthony Carney (Danny Gaunt 66). Subs not used: Richard Lavery, Scott Lower, Guy Hadland
Matlock: 1 Jon Kennedy 2 Micky Harcourt 3 Oscar Radford 4 Ted Cribley 5 Adam Yates 6 Julian Banton 7 Otis Khan 8 Liam Needham (Nicky Travis 51) 9 Jamie McDonagh 10 Danny Holland (Muhammed Sabo 88) 11 Niall McManus (Liam Gaughan 90). Subs not used: Scott Maxfield, Grant Black
Att: 207 Ref: A Fox (Coventry)
Star Gladiator: Jamie McDonagh