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GLADIATORS HELD BY THE SEADOGS


Matlock Town were held to a goalless draw by Scarborough Athletic on Tuesday evening in the Northern Premier League Premier Division.

Despite not being able to pick up the maximum points, the Gladiators have now extended their lead at the top of the league to five points.

This was a very stern test of Matlock Town's title credentials as in-form Scarborough Athletic played very well and probably deserved to win the game. The Derbyshire outfit were not firing on all cylinders at any point in the game despite an improved performance in the second half. This certainly has to be seen as a point gained rather than two points dropped and Paul Phillips can be relieved that Matlock survived an impressive Seadogs performance to stretch their unbeaten league run to five games.

The Gladiators almost took an early lead in the eighth minute of the game when Al Byrne's delightful corner kick found Ioan Evans from 12 yards out but his header flew narrowly over the bar.

The closest Matlock came to breaking the deadlock in the first half was when Liam Hughes's 20 yard effort squeaked inches wide of the post in the 36th minute. Just four minutes later, Scarborough came close themselves to securing the lead when Jacob Day's close range effort was well blocked by goalkeeper Joe Young who rushed immediately off his line to close the big striker down. Young had also impressed earlier on in the fist half when he scampered off his line to save Jamie Sharman's bacon when he cleared away the defender's awful backpass in the nick of time before Jacob Day could latch onto it and stroke the ball home into an empty net.

Credit must also be given to Scarborough for not allowing two enforced substitutions in the first half due to injuries to affect their game. Boro also impressed in keeping Matlock's wing wizard Al Byrne quiet all evening. Byrne had nowhere near the influence he usually has in this league clash.





How the match remained goalless after the second half remains a mystery.

Matlock's best opportunity of the whole game arrived just five minutes after the re-start. In a crowded penalty area, the ball fell to centre-half Ryan Qualter who had come surging into the penalty area. Unfortunately for the Gladiators, Qualter skied his effort over the bar from 12 yards out when he really should have scored.

Just four minutes later, the Seadogs missed an absolute sitter. A stinging effort from just inside the penalty area was saved by Matlock's Joe Young but he couldn't keep hold of the ball and it was left to the incoming and completely unmarked Brad Plant to surely stroke the ball home from around ten yards out. Astonishingly though, Plant somehow managed to miss the target altogether and he steered the ball wide of the post to the disbelief of every spectator in The Proctor Cars Stadium. It was an enormous let-off for the Gladiators.

Plant came close to making amends just after the hour mark when his curling effort from the edge of the penalty area flashed just wide of the post. Straight after on the counter, some heroic defending from Boro blocked Alex Wiles twice from getting an effort on target from close range.

Joe Young was called into emergency action again in the 71st minute when he made a terrific one handed save to prevent a rocket of an effort from hitting the back of the net. In a breathless spell of play, substitute Callum Chippendale then came very close to giving Matlock the lead when his close range effort rolled wide of the post following a spill of the ball from Boro goalkeeper Ryan Whitley.

In a last gasp attempt at a winner, substitute Ross Hannah smashed the ball as hard as he could from 25 yards out in injury time but his effort took a small deflection which saw the ball go wide and out of play for a corner.

It was a full-blooded and hard-fought game, but neither team could find that crucial breakthrough. The Gladiators will certainly be satisfied to have gained a point from this game but will need to improve for their next two games which are against title contenders Bamber Bridge and South Shields.

Matlock Town team: Young, Sharman, Kendall, Evans, Qualter, Lees, Byrne, Wiles (Hannah 81), Hughes (c), Hawkridge (Chippendale 68), Marshall (Uchegbulam 54). Unused subs: King, Okome.

Attendance: 723

Dave Wild Quotes:

"I don't think we were at our best by a long stretch. I don't think we've been at our best for a number of games to be honest. We've reached a stage of the season where we've been grinding wins out. I don't think we really created anything tonight where we had the chance to grind out a win - apart from maybe that Ryan Qualter opportunity where he snatched at it and his effort went over the bar. To be completely honest, I thought Scarborough were the better team. I don't think they did enough either to win. Obviously, they did have that chance where the keeper spilled the ball and they've knocked it wide. It was a tough, hard-fought clash...this was never going to be a game where a team was going to win 5-0. I think it's probably ended up being a good point for both teams."

"We changed shape in the second half. We went to a four at the back, which we've been doing quite a bit recently. We looked a bit more sturdy across the back line in the second half...we just huffed and puffed tonight. There was no real creativity. I thought Terry Hawkridge did really well before he came off. You can see that he's the type of player that we've been crying out for. I think we were a bit better in the second half compared to the first; but the performance overall still fell short of what we all expect. We'll assess that but Scarborough were really impressive tonight; we'll take this as a positive result."

"It's not just the Bamber Bridge game that's really important - every game from now on for us is a huge game. So I don't want to place too much emphasis on the Bamber Bridge came coming up. It will be a good game of football - it was a great game at their place earlier on this season. Jamie Milligan has got them playing a really good style of football. I've watched them three or four times this season and each time I've seen them I've been really impressed with them. It will be a very, very tough game. I think they'll be more ruthless in possession than what Scarborough were tonight. First and foremost though, we need to assess what we're doing. We need to have a look at what we need to work harder on in training and put things right for ourselves."

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