Matlock Town made a losing start in their first match of the league campaign as they lost 1-0 to Bamber Bridge at the Sir Tom Finney Stadium on Saturday.

The game was a drab affair but it was Scott Burton who made the difference and grabbed the only goal of the game with a looping effort midway through the second half.

This was a match with very few clear-cut chances but of the few that arrived, they all fell in Brig’s favour which will be a worry for Gladiators boss Paul Phillips. Matlock only managed one shot on target in the entire match and that came in the 89th minute. It was safe to say after this game that Matlock still have a lot of work to do in the striking department. Similarly to the FA Cup game against OJM Black Country, Liam Hughes (who worked his socks off once again) was left isolated and lacking in support up front. The Gladiators were able to get away with it against opposition three tiers below but they know that they can’t get away with this when it comes to the league. Unfortunately, there was no cutting edge up front whatsoever and the club will really need to look at adding to their strike department. Admittedly, the creative absence of Callum Chippendale (who is out injured for four weeks) is a big blow and does not help matters in the final third.

The first half was an extremely dull affair with virtually nothing of note to report on regarding both teams. It was a match that clearly suffered from players who have participated in barely any competitive football for the past six months and it frequently felt like watching a pre-season friendly as opposed to a league encounter.

Bamber Bridge’s best chance of the first half arrived in the fourth minute when a twenty yard effort sailed over the bar. Matlock’s most notable effort came in the 42nd minute when Ryan Qualter’s header went comfortably over the bar following a corner kick.

Things finally livened up a little bit in the 61st minute. Unfortunately for the Gladiators, it was Brig that began to gain some momentum and Shaun Rowley made an excellent point-blank save from a close-range effort following a good run into the penalty area.

Matlock did not heed the warning though and in the 65th minute debutant Scott Burton took advantage of some lax marking and his looped effort sailed over Shaun Rowley’s head and rippled the back of the net. With five minutes of normal time remaining, Brig almost doubled their lead when a shot was fired in from just outside the penalty area. Shaun Rowley was equal to it though and made a smart stop to tip the ball around the post.

As mentioned before, the Gladiators could only muster one shot on target and this arrived in the 89th minute. Substitute Andre Johnson managed to scramble in an effort which threatened to loop right over the keeper’s head but the Brig keeper was just able to tip the ball over the bar.

Frustratingly, that was as good as it got for the Gladiators all afternoon. Paul Phillips can be encouraged by how solid the defence looked overall and also by the good performance of Shaun Rowley but there will be much to mull over for him when it comes to the final third.

Matlock Town team: Rowley, Yates (c), Turner, Walker, Qualter, Egerton, Byrne (Johnson 72), Kendall, Hughes, Valentine (Bond 47), Abadaki (Dolan 63). Unused subs: Greenfield, Lees.

Attendance: 397

Paul Phillips Quotes

“I thought both teams huffed and puffed. I thought we were poor in possession. We don’t score enough goals. We know that we need a forward player. The only time that I thought we looked a different prospect was when we went with three at the back and two up front with Andre Johnson and Liam Hughes. I’ve got to shoulder a bit of the blame there. People set standards in there, we’ve got a lot to say but when it comes to getting out on the pitch I think too many today fell below that standard.”

“It’s glaring me in the face that we looked more of a threat when we had two up front after Andre came on. We were closing down quicker. I felt a bit sorry for our defenders. I know we’re strong at the back. That’s where you’ve got to build your team from. But we were defending for too long today and I’ve got to solve it. We need to get a system in place and I think we’re searching for our identity a little bit. It’s disappointing. I thought we’d create more problems through set pieces but we didn’t.”

“We’ve got to freshen it up for the next game. We’re playing Saturday and Tuesday for the foreseeable future…I’ve got to make sure I pick the right people for the right game. I just didn’t think we did enough today.”

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