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GLADIATORS GRAB VITAL WIN OVER BASFORD


Matlock Town finally ended their goal scoring drought and returned to winning ways on Saturday afternoon as Jesurun Uchegbulam's late goal secured a 1-0 victory over Basford United at Greenwich Avenue in the Northern Premier League Premier Division. Remarkably, 371 minutes of game time had passed without a goal from any team in a match involving the Gladiators until an inspiring run and excellent finish from Uchegbulam finally brought an end to the barren run in front of goal. With three games remaining of this season's league campaign, Matlock's chances of winning the league title are virtually gone but the victory over Basford means that they're now right on the brink of confirming a play-offs place. The Gladiators stand seven points clear of sixth-placed Bamber Bridge. The first half was a largely uneventful affair and was very tight and cagey; unsurprising, considering the poor form both of those teams were in and the high stakes for both teams. The Gladiators did have two big chances though to take the lead inside the first 45 minutes. After just eight minutes played, an excellent right wing delivery from Alex Byrne found the head of Reece Kendall at the back post but his close range effort was superbly saved by Basford goalkeeper Kieran Preston. On the stroke of half time, an almighty goalmouth scramble ensued following a Matlock Town corner. Both teams were involved in a game of pinball just a few yards away from the goal line but Basford somehow managed to eventually clear the ball away from danger.







The second half eventually opened up a little more with both teams knowing just how crucial a win would be at their respective ends of the league table. Callum Chettle came close to taking the lead for Basford just six minutes after the restart when his shot from the edge of the penalty area flashed narrowly wide of the post. Ioan Evans came to Matlock's rescue on the hour mark when he superbly chased his opponent down to deny his opponent from having a one-on-one opportunity against goalkeeper Joe Young. Matlock then had an absolutely golden opportunity to finally score a goal in the 66th minute. An excellent, surging run from Uchegbulam caught Basford's defence on the back foot and the Nigerian forward stormed past two Lions defenders to go clean through on goal with just the goalkeeper to beat. Unfortunately, his effort lacked composure and his shot was aimed straight at a very grateful Preston who saved easily after rushing off his line to close down the angles. It looked to everyone in the crowd that it was going to be yet another goalless draw for Matlock; however, Uchegbulam had other ideas and made amends for his earlier miss in style. In the 81st minute, substitute Osebi Abadaki headed the ball to Reece Kendall out on the left flank. Kendall played a smart pass for Uchegbulam to run onto and he blitzed past his marker to enter the penalty area at an acute angle with just the Basford goalkeeper to beat. Despite this being a tougher chance than his previous opportunity, Uchegbulam confidently slotted the ball past Kieran Preston and into the back of the net sparking wild scenes of celebration from the Gladiators players, staff and fans. As expected, Basford threw everything they could at Matlock in the final ten minutes with plenty of balls being pumped into the penalty area. Basford almost secured an equaliser in the 83rd minute when a deflected effort inside the area needed a strong hand from Joe Young to keep the ball out. Matlock's defence held strong though and kept the Lions at bay until the final whistle to record a hugely important victory. Matlock Town team: Young, Yates, Kendall, Evans, Qualter, Lees, Byrne, Greenfield (Daly 64), Hughes (c), Hawkridge (Abadaki 55), Uchegbulam (Hannah 90). Unused subs: Sharman, Blakeley. Attendance: 463 Paul Phillips Quotes: "I'm highly relieved. I thought the first half was a non-event. The wind spoiled it a little bit. We had the best chance though - not sure how it stayed out. But we stayed at it. We tweaked our shape a little bit at half-time. We had a couple of really good chances in the second half. I thought: is it going to be one of those days? We've not conceded for four games now. Ryan Qualter hadn't trained all week and I thought he was immense today. He's walking around like the tin man now! It shows exactly what he's all about. The goal was a bit of class from Jes. He deserved it. He missed an easier chance minutes before but it shows the character that the kid's got. He keeps going at it." "The character of this team has never been in question. We've just not had that little bit of luck before. This is what's kept us going; we know we're a good team. We've had a barren run but we picked ourselves up and won a game that I think we deserved to win." "The defence dealt with Basford's efforts at the end like they usually do. They dealt with it really well. That's the character of the lads. There's never been anything wrong with that end of the pitch; I think we've kept 16 or 17 clean sheets now. Where I have to take the blame is when I've asked them to over-commit in certain games because we've had six or seven forwards on the pitch and we've been sucker-punched at the end of those games. I apologised for that and I was never going to fall into that trap today. It was a moment of quality at the end that won us the game." "I've got to praise Ioan Evans. We've asked him to play on the left-hand side and that's not his natural side but he's been immense along with Qualter. Sam Egerton was always going to be a hard defender to replace but Evans has been one of our best players this season. I hope we can keep him at the club next season. A lot of things are expected of Jes. You know what he can do, I know what he can do. It's his first season at this level. He's got a bit of magic about him - he can be what he wants in football. He's just got to apply himself right and keep believing in himself and not get down. That was what I was most pleased about him today - that Jes had scored his goal after he'd missed a big chance earlier on. He's shown his character." "We've got Nantwich at home coming up, Buxton away and then Warrington. We've just got to keep doing our job. We've had Nantwich watched today; they're a good team. Perhaps a bit similar to Basford, maybe in a false position. They're normally around the play-off positions and have got good players. They've got a good manager. It'll be a massive test but we've got to build on this win today like we should have done when we beat Gainsborough. Three points against Nantwich would give us a bit more freedom going into that Buxton game." "What a great turnout it was today. Obviously, we've been on this barren spell but spectators turned up today in numbers to watch a team that's not been firing on all cylinders lately. I thought it was outstanding of them so I thank them for their support today."

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