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GLADIATORS ADVANCE TO SECOND ROUND OF THE FA TROPHY


Matlock Town advanced to the second round of the FA Trophy on Saturday afternoon as they put in an impressive performance to defeat Rushall Olympic 4-0 away from home. First half goals from skipper Liam Hughes and Ryan Qualter plus goals in the second half from Matt Sargent and Jesurun Uchegbulam secured the Derbyshire outfit's place in the velvet sack for the second round draw of the competition. This will take place on Monday at 1pm. The performance at Dales Lane was a good response from the Gladiators after their poor display at home against Whitby Town in the league the previous weekend. The opening 25 minutes of the first half was a dull affair with very little action at either end of the pitch. However, the cup tie suddenly kicked into life from this point onwards. In the 26th minute, Paul Cooper came off his line to make an impressive save to deny Rushall's Callum Coyle when he was clean through on goal following a threaded pass which split the Gladiators defence open. Immediately afterwards at the other end of the pitch, the returning Liam Hughes spurned a golden opportunity to break the deadlock when he blazed his close range effort over the bar. Just two minutes afterwards, Paul Cooper made another decent save to parry the ball and concede a corner following a firm strike on goal from Rushall's Owen Parry. Once again, there was a counter attack immediately after which Matlock should have taken full advantage of. Jesurun Uchegbulam found the ball unexpectedly at his feet from just a few yards out but his effort was straight at the Pics goalkeeper when he really should have taken the lead for the Gladiators. Rushall had a big opportunity to take the lead five minutes before the interval when Danny Glover's header from 12 yards out hit the bar before the Gladiators defence cleared the ball to safety. From this moment on though, Matlock took full control of the game. The deadlock was broken in the 41st minute when Gladiators captain Liam Hughes slotted the ball calmly past the Pics keeper after being put clean through on goal following a lapse in concentration in the Pics defence. The opener marked Hughes's seventh goal of the season. It got even better for Paul Phillips's men just a minute before the break. Centre-back Ryan Qualter bagged his second goal of the season when his bullet header from a corner hit the back of the net in the 44th minute.



The second half was an open affair that the Gladiators excelled in. Alex Byrne and Jesurun Uchegbulam in particular had an excellent second half of the game. Matlock started the second half well on the front foot as Uchegbulam's rocket of an effort just inside the penalty area was well kept out by Pics goalkeeper Tom Palmer. Rushall's last chance of getting something back from this game arrived with twenty minutes to go when Alex Moore's 20 yard effort squeaked inches wide of the post. From some angles, it legitimately looked like the ball had hit the back of the net sparking some very brief celebrations from the Pics supporters. As that opportunity came and went though, the Gladiators went on to kill the game off completely. In the 71st minute, Matt Sargent managed to get the final vital touch to put the ball narrowly over the line following a goalmouth scramble. That marked Sargent's first ever goal for the Gladiators since joining the club on loan from Salford City. The icing on the cake was provided by Uchegbulam as he capped off an impressive performance with a goal in the 82nd minute. The Nigerian moved ahead of his marker to nip in at the near post and head home Alex Byrne's delightful right wing delivery into the bottom corner to secure his sixth goal of this season. Uchegbulam almost added a fifth for Matlock with five minutes remaining as he surged confidently down the middle of the pitch and up to the edge of the penalty area. His effort though was dragged just wide of the post. It was a job well done from Matlock considering it was a game away from home at a side who are having a good season so far. Gaffer Paul Phillips and the rest of the management staff know though that this victory must be built on when league action returns next weekend at Morpeth Town. Matlock Town team: Cooper, Sharman, Kendall, Evans, Qualter, Lees, Byrne (F Phillips 85), Wiles, Hughes (c) (Greaves 80), Uchegbulam, Sargent (L King 80). Unused subs: C King, Coppin, P Phillips. Attendance: 348 Dave Wild Quotes: "We didn't even have to turn up today to have played better than what we did against Whitby! We were better today. I still don't think we were 100% where we want to be or where we have been in previous weeks. The first half was too sloppy. We could have been at least 3-0 up at half time. We missed some gilt-edged chances. Hughesy missed one and Jes should have scored. Ultimately, we went in at half time 2-0 up and, overall in the game, dominated the match for a good hour. Credit to Rushall - they play a very different style to us. They keep the ball and play a lot of possession-based football. But we stuck to our task really well in the second half. Our shape was outstanding. Coops in net played well, as did Qualts and Ioan. They epitomise who we are as a team. So yeah, pleased with the result, much better performance but...I'm still annoyed by the performance from last week, so we'll not be letting them off just yet!" On Matlock players communicating with each other strongly on the pitch when a mistake is made even when comfortably in the lead: "Well, I just think that epitomises what we are as staff and as a group of players. It stems right from the top with Bryn as chairman and runs right through the club. We all want to do well. We're in a good level of football, so in order to do well, you have to talk like that to each other. We've got some lads that have played at higher levels and some young lads who want to play at higher levels so those players have to get used to those expectations and demands. I don't want to keep going on about it, but that communication was missing in that game against Whitby. We've worked hard this week in training and done a lot of graft. These are the standards that need to be met. It's pleasing for us that this is being noticed." "I thought Paul Cooper did really well. Shaky might be a bit too harsh a word, but his kicking was a bit off in the first few minutes of the game. But he's a young lad. This is his first taste of senior football and he's done really well. He set a goal up with his kick! He put us on the front foot multiple times with his kicking. You can see the qualities he has...we're not in panic stations because Shaun Rowley is injured. It's a big blow for us as he's had a really good start to the season. But Coops has been out on dual registration, done really well with the club's he's been at, he did well in the previous round of the FA Trophy. He's earned his chance. Ultimately, he got an assist today and kept a clean sheet - what more can he do?" "We've been talking a bit about not having Ross Hannah available and waiting for him to come back. To have Hughesy and now Ross back for next week is a big positive. What you see on the pitch though, is a real team effort. It's always a big draw though to have Hughesy back in the side - he's got that physical presence and he scored today." "I don't think that Whitby game will be put to bed for a bit, to be honest. We're so built on work rate, commitment, energy, dedication and backing each other. I could go on all day about that but that performance against Whitby just wasn't us. It was painful. Nothing we can do about that game now though. We want to sustain our efforts to go for the title and to certainly finish in the top five. So we can't let a bad result cause too many issues for us. But, in turn, we can't start allowing those kind of standards."

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