Striker Ross Hannah rolled back the years with two excellent goals in the second half to give Matlock Town a highly encouraging 3-2 victory over National League North outfit Boston United.
The Gladiators fell behind in the game twice but their fitness and determination were duly rewarded as they ended up clinching victory with just seconds to spare in an entertaining pre-season friendly at the Proctor Cars Stadium.
Matlock were almost gifted the lead in comical fashion when Boston’s goalkeeper Peter Crook allowed a pass from his team-mate to roll underneath his foot in very similar fashion to Unai Simon in Euro 2020 against Croatia. Thankfully for the Pilgrims, the ball was passed back softly enough for Crook to just reach the ball in time before it rolled over the line.
The Pilgrims took the lead though in the 13th minute when the impressive Jordan Burrow glanced a header past Shaun Rowley following an excellent cross from the right wing.
The Gladiators found an equaliser in the 33rd minute from Sam Egerton with his first ever goal for the club. Alex Byrne whipped in a fantastic free kick from the left wing towards the penalty spot which found the centre-half who stooped low with his head to spring the ball into the top corner.
The Lincolnshire side re-took the lead just eight minutes into the second half as Jay Rollins took advantage of an error from Shaun Rowley in goal. Rowley initially made a decent block to prevent the Pilgrims from scoring inside the penalty area. When Rowley tried to claim the ball on the ground though, the ball squirmed out from his hand and out of reach in the extremely wet conditions and this allowed the oncoming Rollins to easily stroke the ball home from ten yards out into an empty net.
Boston kept on applying the pressure and should really have extended their lead within the following ten minutes.
In the 59th minute, Shaun Rowley made amends for his earlier error when he made an outstanding outstretched save to deny Rollins’s close-range shot making it 3-1. Andy Butler then spurned a glorious chance a few minutes afterwards when he somehow missed the ball completely when he should have easily been able to head a right-wing delivery on target after breaking free from his marker.
The Pilgrims were left to rue these missed opportunities as Matlock had a very strong final twenty minutes of the match, which was spearheaded by the evergreen presence up front in the form of Ross Hannah.
The 34 year-old came on in the second half and went on to score two fantastic goals which was reminiscent of his outstanding first spell with the Derbyshire outfit. In the 73rd minute, substitute Jesurun Uchegbulam went on a fantastic surging run down the right wing beating two Boston players for pace. Uchegbulam’s smart pass to Hannah just outside the edge of the penalty area was duly rewarded as Hannah struck the ball fiercely and it ended up rippling the back of the net off the underside of the bar.
A 2-2 draw would have been a very good result against higher-level opposition but Ross Hannah’s evening was not done yet. In the 90th minute, Declan Walker put in a wonderful cross from the right wing right into the heart of the penalty area. The ball found an unmarked Ross Hannah who volleyed home superbly past the goalkeeper to make it 3-2 and give the Gladiators a fantastic victory right at the death.
Matlock Town team: Rowley, Kendall, Trialist, Egerton, Qualter, Lees, Byrne, Wiles, Hughes (c), Wafula, Walker.
Used substitutes: Pritchard, Uchegbulam, Scott, Hannah. Unused substitutes: Lingouba, Chippendale.
Paul Phillips Quotes:
“I thought we were good tonight. I think we sat off them a bit too much in the first 30 minutes and showed them a bit too much respect. Boston are an excellent football team; they do the right things in the right areas. I thought Jordan Burrow for them was unplayable at times. But I also think that we have a lot of players that can play in the league above too. I thought we looked the better team in the last 15 minutes of the first half, and in the second half I thought that we created a lot from open play. I didn’t think Shaun Rowley had too much to do.”
“Tonight was the first real test that anyone in this squad has faced for at least six months. I thought Alex Wiles was immense tonight. I asked Jesurun to play a deeper role tonight than what he normally would – and he embraced that.”
“Well, wherever Ross Hannah has gone on his honeymoon seems to have done the trick! Ross is 34 now and he’s out there on the pitch after the game doing warm-downs; that tells you all you need to know about him. He’s still an absolute gem of a player. Not just on the pitch but off the pitch too. He will score goals for us. We’ve got to look after him the right way but if he keeps doing what he did tonight, we won’t be far short.”
“I think it’s key to be playing teams across a variety of levels in these pre-season friendlies. We’ve planned these games pretty well – we’ve certainly had enough time to do so! We’ve got good tests coming up. We’ve got Derby County U23’s next up – they’ll keep the ball in a different way than what Boston did tonight. It will be a different test, for sure. These different tests should allow us to be ready for the league season start on August 14.”