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GLADIATORS GET OFF TO THE PERFECT START


Matlock Town got their 2022/23 season off to the perfect start on Saturday afternoon as they beat Whitby Town 1-0 at The Proctor Cars Stadium on the opening day of the Northern Premier League Premier Division.


Jorome Slew scored in the 14th minute on his second debut for the Gladiators to seal all three points on a sweltering afternoon where both teams played in over 30 degrees heat for the entirety of the game.



Matlock performed superbly in the first half and should have been at least two goals to the good when the half-time whistle blew.


After an encouraging first few minutes of the match, the Gladiators were rewarded with the lead in the 14th minute. Some excellent work from debutant Jake Day saw him beat a Whitby player before he passed the ball to an unmarked Jorome Slew who reached the ball just before the Whitby goalkeeper to poke the ball home from around eight yards out. It was an excellent piece of attacking link-up play between Day and Slew and certainly bodes well for Matlock this season if both forwards have already struck a good understanding of one another.


The rest of the first half continued to be one-way traffic with the hosts creating golden opportunities and Whitby being restricted to ambitious long-range efforts that were struck well wide of the target.


Midfielder Alex Wiles had a great chance to double Matlock's advantage just before the half hour mark. An excellent run from an inspired Slew ended with a smart pass behind him to the oncoming Wiles. Unfortunately, Wiles's effort lacked composure and his rocket of an effort from around 14 yards out was somehow blasted wide of the post.


In the 36th minute, it was Callum Chippendale's turn to miss a glaring opportunity to extend Matlock's lead. A superb headed pass from Slew on the by-line found an unmarked Chippendale who had just the goalkeeper to beat from eight yards out. To the disbelief of everyone though, the midfielder completely scuffed his effort and his attempt rolled wide with the goal at his mercy.


Just two minutes later, the impressive Slew had a huge opportunity to secure his second goal of the afternoon. Another powerful run from the left-hand side saw him clean through on goal with just the goalkeeper to beat but Shane Bland won the battle and did well to come out and block the ball with his chest.


Within the next 60 seconds, Matlock finally had the ball in the net for a second time. Centre-half Ioan Evans headed home superbly from 12 yards out following a corner but couldn't believe it when his effort was disallowed by the referee for shirt pulling in the area. None of the Whitby players even appealed for a foul when the ball hit the back of the net which probably tells you all you need to know.









The second half was a tough slog for both teams and the match was nowhere near as free-flowing or eventful as the first half. This was purely down to the energy-sapping weather conditions and both teams battled very admirably in the extreme heat.


The Gladiators were still the better team in the second 45 minutes but with only one goal scored before half-time, it only needed one Matlock mistake or a moment of magic from Whitby for all the hard work and excellent play to be undone.


Matlock's only proper chance during the second half fell in the 72nd minute. Substitute Reon Potts advanced into the penalty area from the right wing and his pass found Jordan Barnett but his rapid effort from 15 yards out was steered wide of the post when he should have at least tested the Whitby goalkeeper.


The Gladiators came very close to paying the price for all those missed chances when some very late pressure from the visitors almost resulted in a dramatic equaliser. Firstly, defender Jamie Sharman made a vital block to deny a Whitby effort from the edge of the penalty area in the 89th minute. A heart-stopping moment then ensued at the start of injury time when a whipped in free-kick caused chaos in the penalty area and the Matlock defence were just able to clear the ball off the line once a scrambled strike on target was finally made by Whitby.


The final whistle was blown shortly afterwards and marked Matlock's first NPL Premier Division opening day victory since the Covid-hit 2019/20 season.



Matlock Town team: Pollard, Sharman, Barnett, Evans, Qualter (c), Lees, Byrne, Wiles, Day (Higgins 85), Slew (Potts 65), Chippendale (Lenighan 65). Unused subs: De Girolamo, Blakeley.


Attendance: 575



Paul Phillips Quotes:


"Credit to all the lads that played today. It was stifling out there. I thought all the players put on a very entertaining game of football. These are two good teams. I thought we were really good in the first half - had some really good chances. We got in behind them a number of times. I thought the disallowed goal was bang on a goal. We had to weather a storm from Whitby right at the very end in the intense heat but I think it showed how strong the characters we have in this team."


"Yeah, I'm relieved to start the season off with a win. I got told before the start of the game that we hadn't beaten Whitby at home for five years so that's a confidence boost as well. Big credit to all our lads today. I don't recall Jim having to make a proper save all game. We created chances today and that was without about four players still missing from the matchday squad."


"I thought Slew and Day were both excellent. You know what you're going to get from Jake, he's open and honest. I thought he was man of the match. He worked his socks off. He created the goal for Jorome. He was disciplined. He was everything I want in a centre-forward. The goals will come for him. If I'm being over-critical, I think Jorome could have scored a couple more goals...hopefully, he can score us 20-30 goals this season and take us to where we want to be."


"The defence was brilliant but that's expected...I thought Jamie Sharman lost his way a little bit towards the end of last season. He was superb today though. My motto to him is - if you keep enjoying your football like he is right now, then he'll be back where he started and playing professional football because he's a great centre-half. You forget sometimes that he's still only 21. For me, if he embraces and learns from Ryan Qualter and Ioan Evans next to him, then he'll be back in the Football League very soon."


"We've had Radcliffe watched - they drew with Hyde. They've got a lot of experience in their team. A lot of new players have come in and they've spent a lot of money. They'll expect to do well. We'll go there on Tuesday night and we'll get on the front foot. Hopefully, we'll put in a good performance like we did at their place last season and win the game."

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