REPORT: Matlock Town 2-0 Ramsbottom United
Matlock halted their losing run with a comfortable win which relegated bottom club Ramsbottom on Tuesday night.
Two early goals within the space of 60 seconds put the Gladiators firmly in the driving seat, but frustratingly against a side which had conceded 100 league goals beforehand, they were unable to inflict further woe.
Ramsbottom never remotely looked like staging a recovery, but with the Rams at their mercy, the Gladiators let them off the hook with some sub standard decision making and distribution going forward, and when chances did come their way they wasted them.
But a crucial victory was the big factor and many a Matlock fan would have taken a 2-0 win had it been offered them on a plate at tea-time.
Attacking the Town End, Matlock started the game strongly and Rams goalkeeper and captain Grant Shenton had to dive smartly to his right to claw away a Niall McManus strike inside 60 seconds.
Then McManus went close again in the fifth minute, this time firing wide after cutting in from the left.
Nearly all of Ramsbottom’s few attempts throughout came from distance, Zak Hargreaves firing over by a good measure from a seventh minute corner before the Gladiators struck their devastating double whammy.
McManus was tripped 20 yards from goal, Micky Harcourt taking a fiercely driven free-kick on his 200th appearance which was deflected to McManus who gleefully cracked in the ninth minute opener from close range.
Then the Rams were cut open down the left as McManus and Joel Purkiss combined sweetly for the latter to scoop a cross for captain Danny Holland to emphatically head home his first goal since November.
With Ted Cribley having been delayed at work, Jordan Ball occupied a role wide on the right and was enjoying himself with some telling diagonal balls, one of which was a 50-yarder that nearly released Purkiss with a chance of adding to the tally and as Matlock dominated McManus cut in to drive narrowly wide and a fierce low Harcourt free-kick flew across the face of goal.
But then Matlock began to lose their way as the opportunities dried up somewhat.
Ramsbottom began to ask a few easy questions, being restricted to more off target long range shots from Bevan Burey and Alex Meaney, while a more straightforward opportunity fell to Luke Heron who tamely prodded at George Willis.
Equally soft attempts from Purkiss and McManus failed to trouble Shenton.
Ramsbottom did not manage even a solitary second-half shot of note in what was an error ridden affair.
But through the frustration Matlock midfielder Liam Needham stood out. His workrate was phenomenal, his tackling crisp and his covering supreme as he appeared to cover every blade of the Autoworld Arena turf. He did the simple things effectively.
Shenton dived at Purkiss’s feet in the 53rd minute before he wasted a free-kick with a wild shot when Ben Algar looked to have been fouled a couple of feet inside the penalty box.
Cribley, having replaced the unwell Holland, fired high and wide with Ball glancing his header also off target.
But McManus wasted a gilt edged chance to make it three in the 73rd minute when Cribley’s low astute pass played him clear but Shenton, literally the last line of defence, was down quickly to save. McManus would later strike the outside of the post from a tight angle with Charlie Dawes twice seeing well directed shots deflected wide.
It was disappointing that Matlock failed to go to town after their early scoring burst - they equalled their tally in the previous seven games in just a minute - but the job had been done.
Mark Hume’s men can breathe slightly more easily now, but they still have a little work to do to be sure of their Premier Division status for 2016/2017.
Matlock: Willis, Harcourt, Algar, Travis (Dawes 75), Yates, Burgin, Ball, Needham, Purkiss, Holland (Cribley 56), McManus. Subs not used: Wilson, Paling, Gaughan.
Ramsbottom: Shenton, Bromley, Smart, Edghill (Bayunu 41), McGrath, Cliffe (Rother 70), Hargreaves, Meaney, Burey (Foster 78), Smith, Heron. Subs not used: Shaw, Ashcroft.
Ref: Harry Hawkins
Star Gladiator: Liam Needham