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HUGHES AND HANNAH SECURE VITAL WIN FOR THE GLADIATORS


Matlock Town came from behind to secure a crucial 2-1 victory over Gainsborough Trinity in the Northern Premier League Premier Division and keep themselves firmly in the race for the league title and automatic promotion.

The Gladiators went into this match five games without a win and things were looking worrying when, despite playing well, Gainsborough took the lead in the 53rd minute. However, goals from Liam Hughes and Ross Hannah within five minutes of each other gave the Gladiators one of their most important victories of the 2021/22 campaign.

The match got off to a dramatic start when the Gladiators were awarded a penalty after Ross Hannah was brought down in the area in the fifth minute. Al Byrne took his spot kick confidently and steered the ball towards the bottom left of the net but Trinity goalkeeper Matt Yates guessed the right way and produced an excellent save to tip the ball around the post.

Alex Wiles found space from 20 yards out in the 19th minute to fire in an effort on target which forced Yates into another good save. Trinity's first real chance of the game arrived three minutes later when Jovon Makama beat two Matlock players before shooting from just inside the penalty area only to see his effort flash narrowly wide of the post.

Both teams had big opportunities to break the deadlock on the stroke of half time. Matt Yates once again frustrated Matlock in the 44th minute when he did well to save Liam Hughes's close range header following an excellent right wing cross from Al Byrne. On the counter, Jovon Makama found space just inside the penalty area once again and his stinging effort was on target this time and forced Joe Young into an excellent outstretched save.

The first half was a good display of football from both teams but the second half was one of the most entertaining halves I've seen all season.

Matlock came extremely close to taking the lead just four minutes after the re-start when Liam Hughes's header following a corner was cleared off the line by a Gainsborough defender. It was the home side though that finally broke the deadlock after 53 minutes. It was broken in spectacular fashion too by Jovon Makama. Makama, who is on loan at Gainsborough Trinity from Lincoln City, was excellent all afternoon and looks to be a very exciting prospect for the future. After Trinity won a free kick in a great area from 20 yards out, the teenager lifted the ball beautifully over the Matlock wall and beat the outstretched dive of Joe Young to find the top corner.

Matlock had their goalkeeper to thank for not falling 2-0 down after 63 minutes. An intelligent through ball split the Gladiators defence and Trinity found themselves with just the keeper to beat. The Holy Blues should have doubled their lead but Joe Young did fantastically well to rush off his line so quickly and close down the opponent's angles before launching himself to the ground and winning the ball from the striker. It was an outstanding piece of goalkeeping that undoubtedly kept his team in the game - there's no question that Joe Young has a very, very bright future in the game.

Following that close shave, the Gladiators upped their tempo and the introduction of Terry Hawkridge in midfield caused Gainsborough problems almost immediately.

The Gladiators deservedly found an equaliser in the 66th minute thanks to their skipper. Al Byrne's cross from the right wing found Ross Hannah in the area. He smartly stooped down and headed the ball on which was met by an unmarked Liam Hughes and he scored from close range to mark his 11th goal of the season.

Just five minutes later, the Gladiators took the lead. A cross from the left found Al Byrne who headed across the goal to allow Ross Hannah to get in front of his marker and bundle the ball home from very close range to secure his fourth goal of the 2021/22 campaign.

Matlock came very close to extending their lead in the 84th minute when Terry Hawkridge's effort inside the penalty area beat the goalkeeper but was dramatically cleared off the goal line by a Trinity defender. Alex Wiles then had a 25 yard effort which squeaked just wide of the post.

Fittingly, the game concluded with a couple of heart-stopping moments of drama where Gainsborough almost grabbed a last ditch equaliser.

Shortly into injury time, a clever through ball put Tom Cursons in a position where he just had the goalkeeper to beat. Cursons moved the ball from the left wing into the centre and as he entered the penalty area, the entire crowd drew a huge breath inwards. Incredibly though, Joe Young came off his line superbly once again and closed his opponent's angles down expertly so that he was able to tip Cursons's effort around the post.

The drama still wasn't over though. A rapid effort from 15 yards out from Joe Parkin inside a crowded penalty area forced Joe Young into action again and he did very well to hold onto the ball and deny Trinity the chance of equalising through an easy rebound.

Matlock Town survived those two late scares though and the players and staff were jubilant in their celebrations as the final whistle was blown. There can be no question that, if Matlock Town do win the league title, the manner of this victory will have played an enormous role in that coming to fruition.

Matlock Town team: Young, Yates, Chippendale (King 86), Evans, Qualter, Lees, Byrne, Wiles, Hughes (c), Hannah (Webb-Foster 76), Marshall (Hawkridge 62). Unused subs: Daly, F Phillips.

Attendance: 589

Paul Phillips Quotes:

"Extremely proud of the performance today. We were on a bad run of form, there was no hiding behind that. But I thought we came here today and had a lot of good chances. I thought, even when we were 1-0 down, that we were the better team. I thought the best team won today."

"The lads were frustrated in the dressing room at half time. I was pretty calm and collected with them at the interval because I thought we were doing the right things in the right areas and that the goals would come. I'm not always right but today that proved to be the case. I think we deserved that win. They were two good goals. The introduction of Terry Hawkridge caused the opposition a lot of problems. I thought Ross Hannah and Hughesy were superb. Gainsborough aren't a bad team - they'd only lost one game at home this season before this one. I thought we managed the game well when they threw everything at us at the end. The only downside for me was that we didn't score more goals."

"Joe Young was great today. You can tell he's a Premier League goalkeeper. The way he was claiming the ball. His kicking was good. When he's been forced into action, he did really well. Punches the ball well. He talks well on the pitch. We're so glad to have him. He's got Shaun Rowley breathing down his neck but the lad has stepped up to the plate. If he keeps playing like he is, I'm sure he'll have a big future at Wolves."

"This game and the next two coming up could well be a key part of the season. South Shields have dropped points again today. We could potentially return to the top of the league if we beat Ashton on Tuesday. It'll be a big ask though: they've beaten South Shields recently and they beat Stalybridge today. We've got to be on our guard, Michael Clegg has got a good team there. I'm sure it'll be a tough, tough game. We've got to make sure we go on a good run now...it starts today. We've got ten more games to go. We're in a good position still despite that blip we had. It's massively important now that we kick on and see where it takes us."

"It was a cold day today and another long journey. To see the amount of Matlock spectators turn up today and cheer us on - it was absolutely top draw. I thank each and every one of them."

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