REPORT: Gladiators slip into bottom half of table after defeat to the Celts

Updated: Nov 22, 2019

Matlock Town’s three match winning streak came to an end on Saturday afternoon as they were defeated 1-0 by Stalybridge Celtic in the Northern Premier League at the Proctor Cars Stadium.

A superb 55th minute strike from Anthony Whitehead was the difference between the sides in a match blighted by dreadful weather conditions.

The Celts absolutely flew out of the blocks and had two huge opportunities to take a very early lead. In the fifth minute, Darius Osei became a contender for miss of the season as his effort went wide of the post from literally one yard out. Jon Stewart rushed out of his area to clear the ball but made a meal out of the situation. The ball was passed to Jonathan Ustabasi who chipped the ball over Bailey Gooda from 30 yards out. The ball surely looked to be on its way into an empty net but the ball bounced off the pitch from six yards out and hit the bar. Osei was completely on his own from a yard out to wait for the ball to bounce back off the bar, but to the disbelief of everyone in the stadium, somehow managed to turn his effort wide of the post in what was an enormous let-off for the Gladiators. Just two minutes later, a flicked shot from Craig Hobson after an impressive left-wing delivery cannoned back off the post before being cleared to safety by the Matlock defence.

Matlock’s first real chance of the game fell to in-form Spencer Harris who came agonisingly close to scoring for the third match in a row. In the 22nd minute, his header from a corner looked to be going in at the far post but his effort was cleared off the goal-line. Three minutes later, a carbon copy effort fell to Stalybridge when Chris Smalley’s effort inside the area was smartly cleared off the line by Bailey Gooda. Shortly before half-time, Jonathan Ustabasi had a golden opportunity to take the lead for the Celts. With only Jon Stewart to beat though, he missed the ball altogether and kicked the air instead before falling over. This was one of numerous occasions in the game where the awful rainy weather conditions really hampered the play of both teams. The first half somehow ended goalless after an entertaining, if at times comical, forty-five minutes of play.

Unfortunately for the Gladiators, Saturday afternoon was yet another case of Matlock not dealing with the game properly in the opening stages of the second half and paying the price for it. The Celts started the second half just as brightly as the first and the Gladiators were given a warning in the 47th minute when Craig Hobson probably should have done better when he slid in to meet a cross from six yards out but his effort somehow rolled wide of the post. Matlock did not heed the warning though and fell a goal down ten minutes into the second half when Anthony Whitehead was allowed plenty of time and space to curl in a lovely 25 yard shot into the back of the net.

The Celts were much the better team in the second half and deserved the victory. Having said that, Matlock did almost grab an instant equaliser in the 57th minute when Spencer Harris dragged a shot wide from eight yards out with the goal at his mercy. Unfortunately though for the Gladiators, this was pretty much their only opportunity in the entire second half.

In the 76th minute, Scott Bakkor came extremely close to doubling Stalybridge’s advantage after a mix-up between Dwayne Wiley and Jon Stewart allowed Bakkor to chip a stranded Stewart from twenty yards out but his effort just went wide of the post.

Matlock had a huge penalty appeal turned down by the referee after Marcus Marshall appeared to have been brought down by Celts keeper Alex Fojtcek with ten minutes to go and this was the closest Matlock came to getting back into the game in the final stages of the match. Scott Bakkor came extremely close again to doubling Stalybridge’s lead when his superb first touch in the 84th minute allowed him to shoot from twenty yards out with his effort just going wide of the post.

The 1-0 defeat meant that Matlock slipped down to 12th in the Northern Premier Division and that they were in the bottom half of the table for the first time in the 2019/20 campaign. It was fair to say that Gladiators manager Steve Kittrick was very unimpressed with a number of his players after the match.

“I thought we huffed and puffed, played alright in some patches but in other patches we were absolutely awful. We were poor and the lack of know-how today disappointed me…it was a calamity at the start of the first half with how many chances they (Stalybridge) had…it’s not good enough, and I’ve told them all it’s not good enough. You can’t live off reputations, you’ve got to work hard and we’re playing teams that have got a lot more endeavour and desire and there’s certain players who have come out with a Matlock shirt on today that haven’t had that…some of them have got to be very, very careful because it’s just not where we need to be and I think they owe it to themselves to be better. I don’t think they’re bad players but I think one or two of them have taken their eye off what it’s all about.”

Kittrick was also asked whether he was looking to add more players to his squad:

“Looking on that today, we could fetch five or six in! I’ve got to be brutally honest, I’ve told them all today it’s not good enough…we looked like a poor side in patches today.”

The manager was then asked about his assessment of the season so far and whether he feels disappointed or optimistic:

“Honestly, I’m disappointed with where we are now. We’re 12th, I’ve just been told…unless players are going to put an honest shift in, we’re not going to get anything.”

Kittrick reiterated his frustrations at the end of his interview:

“I don’t want people to read into it that there’s anything wrong with the club or that the dressing room is not right because the dressing room is perfect, but there’s one or two of them that have got to stand up and be counted…everything we’ve worked hard for can soon diminish, two or three defeats and you’re soon in the bottom half and you start getting questioned by the board, but then two or three wins in a row can happen and it’s soon forgotten about…believe me, they have been told, every player has been told what I think today and I need a lot more out of people and we’ll get it right because if we don’t I’ll just change it and get in some people who can do what I’m expecting to do.”

Matlock Town: Stewart, Yates (c), Gordon, Rea, Gooda, Wiley, Marshall, Dean (Chilaka 64), Hinsley (Tague 80), Harris, Bramall (Crouz 64).

Unused Substitutes: Sinnott, Morris.

Attendance: 463

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