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GLADIATORS OUTCLASSED BY THE MARINERS


Matlock Town fell to a 3-1 defeat away from home against fellow title contenders South Shields in the Northern Premier League Premier Division on Tuesday evening.

Despite a spirited performance overall, a slow start out of the blocks cost the Gladiators dearly and they were simply outclassed by the Mariners who fully deserved the three points on the night. The defeat now means that Matlock have fallen to third position in the league table following a run of four games without a win. The pressure will be on Paul Phillips's men to recover some form in their tough away trip to FC United of Manchester this coming Saturday.

South Shields started on the front foot from the very first minute and immediately caused Matlock's defence (which sorely missed the suspended Ryan Qualter) huge problems. In the sixth minute of the game, Mariners forward Sam Hodgson really should have hit the target from 12 yards out but his effort flashed narrowly wide of the post. It only took another two minutes though for South Shields to score the first goal of the game. The Gladiators defence was easily breached in the eighth minute and JJ Hooper was able to smash the ball home past Joe Young from inside the penalty area to make it 1-0 to the home side.

The pressure kept on coming and the Mariners almost doubled their lead after 22 minutes when Jordan Hunter's excellent effort from 25 yards out squeaked wide of the post with Joe Young well beaten. Matlock could only survive one more minute though before falling two goals behind. A through ball breached Matlock's defence once more and Sam Hodgson confidently slotted the ball past Young from 12 yards out to make it 2-0 to the Mariners.

Matlock pulled a goal back though shortly afterwards in the 25th minute through centre-half Ioan Evans. An excellent right wing cross from Al Byrne found an unmarked Evans inside the penalty area and he beat the Mariners keeper to the ball and found the back of the net to secure his second goal of the season and to give Matlock hope that they were still in this match.

Incredibly, Matlock almost got back on level terms just two minutes afterwards when Al Byrne's hooked close range effort cannoned back off the post. Who knows how this game would have panned out had Matlock stunned the Mariners with two quick-fire goals?

The remainder of the first half was a much tighter affair and there was real hope that the Gladiators had given themselves a foothold to get something from this match.




The first 15 minutes of the second half continued to be a tight affair but then the Mariners began to step up a gear once again. On the hour mark, Joe Young produced an excellent save to tip the ball around the post following a close range effort that looked for certain that it was about to extend South Shields's lead. From the resulting corner though, Jack Bodenham was able to head on target and find the back of the net from ten yards out to make it 3-1 to the Mariners. This goal would prove to be a huge body blow for Matlock and it was always going to be a huge mountain to climb from this point onwards.

South Shields should have made it 4-1 in the 68th minute but defender Jon Shaw made a meal of his headed attempt when meeting a right wing delivery and his effort rolled wide of the post.

Matlock continued to battle hard till the end and came close to reducing the deficit twice in the final ten minutes thanks to the lively Ross Hannah who came on as a late substitute. In the 83rd minute, Hannah's effort from 12 yards out sailed over the bar. Three minutes later, a scorching effort from 15 yards out flashed just wide of the post. On the counter, Darius Osei's blistering 20 yard effort almost provided the icing on the cake for South Shields but his effort was fired narrowly over the bar.

All in all, it was a very impressive performance from South Shields that condemned Matlock to an away defeat. While it's certainly not time to press the panic button for Matlock Town, their winless run needs to end as soon as possible if Matlock are to win the title and it will be a tough ask to achieve this on Saturday with a challenging away trip to FC United of Manchester.

Matlock Town team: Young, Sharman, Kendall, Evans, King (Hannah 75), Lees, Byrne, Chippendale (Daly 86), Hughes (c), Webb-Foster, Hawkridge (Marshall 63). Unused subs: Bertram, F Phillips.

Attendance: 2,639

Paul Phillips Quotes:

"The best team won. We didn't start well enough...I think we were limited in midfield in terms of what we could do. I just thought we were put on the back foot a bit too easily. We did have a couple of chances though in the first half and I can't really remember Joe having to make many saves. I thought we were a little bit wasteful up front when we did manage to get in behind them."

"The absence of Qualter would be a blow to anyone. I think Alex Wiles was a big miss too. It was a big ask for the team tonight. I thought Chippendale was our man of the match tonight - he was outstanding. I thought South Shields's number two was the best full-back I've seen in this league by a long shot and Chippy managed to limit what he could do in a position he's not played in many times. I thought we were the best team in the second half for a period of 20-25 minutes. We just didn't press home our advantage."

"The game could have gone differently had Byrne's effort not hit the post. I thought we caused them a lot of problems when we put balls into the box. We were a little bit passive though in the second half and didn't have enough players forward. I thought we chased the game at the end which left us a little bit open. We need to make sure we regroup and stay together. We're two points off the top and we're not having a good spell. We always knew there would be blips in the season - there's still 12 games to address it. We've got to pick ourselves up and start again next Saturday at FC United."

"I thought for the first 10-15 minutes, we probably did give them too much respect again. We struggled to work out the rotation of their front three. As soon as we sussed that out, we dealt with that a lot better. By that point though, we were two goals down...it was a period of the game where our heads went a little bit and that cost us."

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