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GLADIATORS HELD BY THE HIGHWAYMEN IN FIRST DRAW OF THE SEASON


Matlock Town ended up with their first draw of the season on Saturday following a dour goalless affair at Craik Park against Morpeth Town in the Northern Premier League Premier Division.

The point on the road keeps Matlock Town at the top of the league but only based on goal difference now following South Shields's 3-1 victory at home over Gainsborough Trinity. Fierce rivals Buxton missed the chance to go top themselves after they surprisingly lost to Lancaster City 1-0 away from home.

The game between the Highywaymen and the Gladiators was a dull contest which featured very few clear-cut chances for either side and lots of lost possession in midfield from both teams.

Matlock's first real opportunity of any sort arrived in the 23rd minute. Ross Hannah found space to run down the left flank and pass the ball to a free Alex Wiles on the edge of the penalty area. Unfortunately, Wiles dragged his effort wide of the post when he should really have hit the target.

Two minutes later, a fantastic free kick delivery from Alex Byrne on the right wing almost culminated in the deadlock being broken. Byrne's set piece found the head of Ryan Qualter but the centre-half couldn't quite direct his header from 12 yards out on target.

Matlock's best opportunity in the whole game fell on the stroke of half time. A goalmouth scramble resulted in three excellent blocks from Morpeth's defence to deny Alex Byrne twice and also Matt Sargent on one occasion. From the following corner kick, Liam Hughes headed wide from 12 yards out when he should have at least tested Morpeth's goalkeeper.

Only two genuine attempts at goal came about in the second half and both of these opportunities fell to Morpeth.

In the 57th minute, Jack Foalle sliced the ball well wide from just inside the penalty area which summed the game up. The main talking point of the game though came with 20 minutes remaining. A goalmouth scramble following a long throw into the penalty area saw a Morpeth player eventually attempt to backheel the ball into the net while facing away from goal. This excellent piece of improvisation almost paid off as the effort beat Paul Cooper in goal. It was skipper Liam Hughes though that came to Matlock's rescue as he cleared the ball off the goal line to keep the score at 0-0.

Despite plenty of long balls aimed at Matlock's defence in the final 20 minutes of the game, neither side offered anything of any real threat in the final quarter of the match and the game deserved to end 0-0.

Overall, despite a flat performance, this has to be considered a decent point away from home for Matlock against a rejuvenated team since they changed their manager earlier this season which has now seen them lose only two of their last 16 games in all competitions.

Matlock Town team: Cooper, Sharman, Kendall, Evans, Qualter, Lees, Byrne, Wiles, Hughes (c), Hannah (Daly 54), Sargent (Hall 54). Unused subs: L King, C King, Greaves.

Attendance: 480


Paul Phillips Quotes:

"I thought it was a cagey game from start to finish. I think we had the better of the chances that were created. I just thought the emphasis was on them a bit more to come out and have a go at us. We had some half-chances in the first half. I don't think we kept the ball well enough. We didn't move the ball well enough. I felt like Morpeth were happy to play for the point. We didn't get enough on the front foot in the second half. Is it a good point? I can only tell you at the end of the season. For me, again, we've got to do a little bit more in the final third."

"I thought Cooper's kicking today was rubbish. He did alright overall today. He has to be more vocal. As a goalkeeper, he's not the biggest but neither was I. So what you have to do in that case is - you've got to have a big mouth, you've got to be horrible, you've got to kick well and you've got to have something to make up for the fact that you're not six foot four. At the moment, he's got to be a bit more assertive. He got a clean sheet but he's got to do more, got to be assertive. He's not really had to make a save today but he just needs to have a bit more authority about him. Credit to the defence in front of him because Paul didn't have much to do today."

"I think it was hard for Luke Daly and Luke Hall today. They only started training with us last Thursday evening. They're both not too familiar yet with how we want to play. We've got to find a way of fitting these players in to give us that little bit of balance and quality. The more you see of the, hopefully the better they will become. I think we've seen that progression in the likes of Matt Sargent, who's now started the last two or three games. In his first game for us, he just wasn't at the races because he didn't understand then what we wanted to do and how we wanted to play. It can take about two to three weeks to understand how we want to play off the front man and how we want to move the ball around. Both players had around 35 minutes each today, so hopefully that will stand them in good stead."

"Yeah, it'll take Ross Hannah two or three more games to be firing on all cylinders. A fully match fit Ross Hannah maybe scores two goals in that first half today. What's frustrating is that he's missed around six games this season for two red cards and yet for the exact same type of incident from a Morpeth player today, he just got a yellow card. How was that offence not a red card in the first half? A player of ours got slapped in the face by a Morpeth player. It's not sour grapes, I can tell you that now. It's just the fact that I've missed a player who scored lots of goals in pre-season for the same kind of incident as what one of their players received a yellow card for today. It just doesn't make sense."

"Marske are a good team going forward. We weren't at our best today and I'm sure they'll have sent someone from the club to watch us today and do their homework. We're going to have people watch them play on Tuesday evening. It'll be a tough game against Marske. They're definitely looking to get promoted from out of their division. They're doing really well this season. We need to get on the front foot next Saturday. We need to be more ruthless and calculated in the final third of the pitch than what we were today. It should be a good game and if we can do what we know we can do, then we know we can get through to the next round."

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