REPORT: Gladiators through to next round of FA Cup

An early goal from debutant Ryan Qualter ensured that Matlock Town made it into the hat for the FA Cup First Qualifying Round as they defeated OJM Black Country 1-0 at the Proctor Cars Stadium.

Despite being three tiers below the Gladiators, OJM Black Country gave a good account of themselves and Matlock were made to work hard for their victory in what was the club’s first competitive game in just over six months.

It was a scrappy affair which will be unlikely to be released on DVD any time soon but with a cup game so early on in the season (and after so long without a competitive game), the only thing that really mattered for Paul Phillips’s men was just getting through to the next round before concentrating on the start of their league campaign.

Matlock’s best phase of the match was probably the very first ten minutes. After just two minutes, loan signing Danny Greenfield was able to find space and shoot from just inside the area but his attempt rippled the side netting.

Two minutes later, Liam Hughes (also making his debut) threaded a lovely pass through to Alex Byrne. On the edge of the area, Byrne looped the ball over his marker’s head and attempted a volley but his attempt lacked conviction and the ball was aimed straight at OJM’s keeper Kyle De Garis.

Matlock’s early pressure was rewarded after ten minutes when Ryan Qualter took advantage of some weak marking and headed the ball in off the underside of the bar to give the Gladiators the lead from a corner-kick.

You could have been forgiven for thinking Matlock would push on from this early lead and score at least four or five but OJM Black Country were not a team for underestimating. Despite being in the tenth tier, OJM worked hard, were well organised and it further backs up their promotion credentials.

In the 18th minute, Callum Dolan waltzed past a defender to venture down the left wing. His excellent cross found the head of Alex Byrne from twelve yards out but he couldn’t quite gain enough power with his effort and in the end it was a comfortable save for Kyle De Garis to make. The rest of the first half was an extremely scrappy affair with no clear-cut chances at either end.

An exceptional goal line clearance prevented the Gladiators from doubling their lead just four minutes into the second half. Callum Dolan’s pace once again beat a couple of OJM defenders and his close-range effort squirmed past the keeper but just before the ball rolled over the line, the last man for OJM magnificently reached the ball in the nick of time to boot the ball out of danger.

Once again though, there were very few clear cut chances for the remainder of the game. The closest Matlock came after the goal line clearance to double their lead arrived in the 69th minute when the substitute goalkeeper for OJM needlessly came out miles off his line to clear the ball when he was never going to reach it in time. With the goal unguarded, substitute Osebi Abadaki attempted to lob the ball into the net from twenty-five yards out but his effort lacked composure and the ball sailed over the bar when he probably should have done better.

OJM Black Country never really had a golden opportunity to equalise. Their best efforts were through long range attempts which didn’t really trouble Shaun Rowley between the sticks or through goalmouth scrambles which were dealt with comfortably by Matlock’s defence all game.

All in all, there was a sense of relief more than anything at the final whistle. Relief that Matlock got the job done against plucky opposition but also relief that a competitive game had finally taken place at the Proctor Cars Stadium. While the performance was nothing to write home about and the match was more difficult than anticipated, the main thing for the Gladiators was that they put their name in the hat for the FA Cup First Qualifying Round draw which takes place this coming Monday.

Their attention can now finally focus on the league campaign as their next game is away at Bamber Bridge on the opening day of the NPL Premier Division campaign next Saturday.

Matlock Town: Rowley, Yates, Turner, Egerton, Qualter, Walker, Byrne (King 81), Greenfield, Hughes (c), Coveney (Johnson 67), Dolan (Abadaki 67). Unused subs: Coppin, Kendall, Stewart.


Paul Phillips Quotes

“I thought we defended quite well, the midfield was weak though after the first twenty minutes. They weren’t winning the first balls, they weren’t winning the second balls. The game passed them by. Dec Walker was the only one that was putting himself about. We’ve got to address that. Mark Lees is out, Callum Chippendale is out, Spencer Harris out: but there’s no excuse. Fair play to OJM Black Country. They’ve come here today and given a good brief of themselves. Maybe last year, we would have conceded goals against this team rather than how we kept them out today.”

“I don’t want to bring in more players willy nilly but we have got quite a few injuries at the moment. Maybe I’m being a bit negative. On the positive side, we’re through to the next round and the club have got a few more quid from this today. But we do still need to better in the middle third.”

“We were in a no-win situation today. If you win, everyone expects you to anyway. If we lose, you’ll have people laughing at you. I’m not going to say I’m over the moon but we got the job done today. We just need a little bit of luck to have a squad of at least sixteen/seventeen fully-fit players and then we won’t be far off.”

“I don’t think we were complacent today – I wouldn’t allow that. I think the problem today was that we’ve asked some players to do some things that don’t come naturally to them. As I said when I first took this job, we won’t be the best footballing team in our league. But what we will do is we’ll be there competing for the first ball, the second ball. Unfortunately, we were all over the shop in midfield today.”

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