Matlock Town made it four wins in a row on Saturday after a very impressive 2-0 victory at Cantilever Park against Warrington Town in the NPL Premier Division.
Jesurun Uchegbulam and Callum Chippendale both scored their first goals of the season to give the Gladiators all three points and to move them up to fifth position in the table and into the play-off places.
It was an outstanding away performance from the Gladiators as they took the game to their Cheshire opponents and never allowed them to dictate any of the play at any point in the match.
Matlock's first chance of the game arrived in the tenth minute when Jesurun Uchegbulam found space on the edge of the penalty area to have a shot and saw his effort flash just wide of the post. In the 18th minute, a carbon copy of Uchegbulam's effort this time fell to Jerome Greaves. Greaves, who is on loan with Matlock Town from Rotherham United, saw his effort also flash just wide of the post in another warning to the Yellows.
The Gladiators really should have broken the deadlock in the 27th minute when Jerome Greaves managed to head over the cross bar from only around eight yards out. Alex Byrne fired in an excellent delivery as usual from the right wing forcing Warrington's goalkeeper to come off his line. The keeper managed to miss the ball altogether though leaving Greaves with the goal at his mercy but he somehow headed off target.
Another huge let-off for the Yellows occurred four minutes before the end of the first half when central defender Sam Egerton missed the target altogether from only around six yards out following Byrne's corner kick from the left wing. It was a packed penalty area and Egerton just couldn't quite connect properly when the ball ended up at his feet and his effort agonisingly rolled inches wide of the post.
Matlock finally broke the deadlock on the stroke of half time thanks to the persistence and impressive work rate of Uchegbulam. The Nigerian looked to have lost the ball just inside the penalty area but he capitalised on his opponent's hesitancy and battled hard to dig the ball out and win possession back. After winning the ball back, the winger set himself up to drill the ball home as hard as possible from 15 yards out and his effort was too quick for Warrington's keeper to get a hand to and the ball smashed into the bottom corner to give the Gladiators a deserved lead.
Remarkably, Matlock almost went into the interval 2-0 up straight from Warrington's kick-off after the first goal. The Yellows defence already seemed to be back in the changing rooms as they immediately lost possession in a dangerous area. Jerome Greaves managed to side-step a Yellows defender to put himself in a fantastic position from 12 yards out but his stinging effort on target was superbly tipped over the bar by the Warrington goalkeeper.
Warrington threw more at Matlock in the second half as expected but the Gladiators defence dealt comfortably with everything that came at them and always remained dangerous on the counter attack.
Matlock had a huge chance to go 2-0 up in the 56th minute when a poor defensive back-pass allowed Alex Wiles to run through unopposed and into a one-on-one position with Warrington's keeper. The keeper came out well though and blocked Wiles's effort to keep the Yellows in contention.
Warrington's best opportunity of the game fell in the 67th minute when a great one-two put midfielder Matthew Regan into a fantastic position with plenty of space around him. He should have done far better with the time he had available to him though and he blazed his effort from the edge of the penalty area comfortably over the bar.
The Gladiators killed the game off with 15 minutes to go through substitute Callum Chippendale. The former Buxton player chased the ball down all on his own just before it rolled over the by-line. His success caught the Yellows by surprise and the attacking midfielder suddenly had an ample amount of space to run into. He marched into the penalty area and struck the ball 12 yards out from an acute angle which beat the goalkeeper at his near post to make it 2-0. The keeper probably should have done better but Gladiators boss Paul Phillips won't care a bit.
Matlock managed the final part of the game very well. Warrington inevitably threw far more men up forward in a desperate aim to rescue a point but the Gladiators defence dealt comfortably with any kind of pressure that was thrown their way.
Overall, a fantastic away performance from the North Derbyshire outfit. Can they now make it five wins in a row on Bank Holiday Monday when they host Gainsborough Trinity in the NPL Premier Division?
Matlock Town team: Rowley, Sharman, Kendall, Egerton, Qualter, Lees, Byrne (c), Wiles (Wafula 88), J Greaves (Chippendale 70), Walker, Uchegbulam (Hasani 79). Unused subs: Hall, O Greaves.
Paul Phillips Quotes
"Today was a great performance. I thought we deserved everything we got in the game. We stuck to our game plan. For me, I thought Dec Walker sums up this group of players. He lost his grandfather two days ago but he's come in today and I thought he was man of the match. I just think it sums up what we're about. We're honest, we work hard, we're doing the right things in the right areas. I thought we deserved to win. I thought we could have got a couple more goals if we'd been a bit more clinical - that's my only gripe."
"We're built on a good defence. We've not given too many goals away so far in this campaign. Today was a different kind of test today compared to the previous game at Nantwich. It was a bit blood and thunder today. They had a decent spell in the first 15 minutes of the second half but I don't think they ever actually tested Shaun Rowley at any point in the game. I don't remember him having a save to make. That's no disrespect to Warrington; I just thought our back three were absolutely fantastic today."
"Liam Hughes is going to have to fight his way back into the starting eleven now. At one point, you'd never think you'd hear me say that. When you look at it now - we've got great people in different positions and that's going to cause competition for spots in the team. That should make sure all the lads stay on their toes and if they don't, then they'll find themselves out of the team. We don't want to be coming to places like this, work hard, get the three points and then go and shoot ourselves in the foot at home against Gainsborough. We've got to make sure we prepare right with this short turnaround and be ready for Gainsborough."