Matlock Town made it two wins from two on Monday night with a fantastic 1-0 away victory over Basford United at Greenwich Avenue.
The game looked to be concluding towards a 0-0 stalemate until a moment of magic from Piteu Crouz in the 83rd minute when he fired a beautiful free-kick into the top right corner of the net from twenty yards out.
Steve Kittrick made two changes from last Saturday’s victory over Bamber Bridge. Jordon Cooke came in for the injured Adam Yates and Dan Bramall replaced Pieu Crouz. Jon Stewart took over the captaincy in Yates’s absence.
Matlock were second best in the first half but Stewart came to the Gladiators rescue with a series of good saves to keep the score at 0-0 for the first 45 minutes.
The 39th minute marked Stewart’s best moment of the match when he made two quick-fire impressive saves from shots inside the penalty area.
This was always going to be a stern test for the Gladiators as Basford are tipped by many people to have a good chance of promotion this season.
Matlock battled hard in the first half but often struggled to retain possession and attempts on goal were a rarity. The Gladiator's best chance in the first half fell in the 26th minute when Jordon Cooke found space inside the area but headed wide from a corner.
At half time, you felt that the Gladiators would have settled for a point but as the second half progressed past the hour mark, Matlock started showing signs of increasing confidence and gradually took the initiative before finishing the match as the stronger outfit.
Clear-cut chances were still hard to come by however. In the 68th minute, Andrew Wright hit the side-netting with a strike following an in-swinging corner from the right wing. Neither keeper were being made to work hard though in this second half dominated by half-chances.
As the game was petering out, it looked as if the deadlock was only going to be broken by either a goalkeeping blunder or a moment of inspiration. Steve Kittrick called for Crouz to replace Bramall in the 70th minute and it was the Cameroonian left winger who secured Matlock’s victory.
With just seven minutes of normal time remaining, Crouz won a free-kick from twenty yards out after being felled during a surging run. Crouz took the free-kick himself and guided the ball majestically into the top right-hand corner of the net to stake a very early claim for Matlock’s goal of the season. The crowd knew they had just witnessed a very special goal indeed.
Instead of just playing out for a 1-0 win, Matlock almost doubled their lead just before injury time when they hit the woodwork. Stoic defending from the Gladiators in injury time ensured that there was no real threat of a last-ditch equaliser.
After nothing materialised from a Basford corner three minutes into injury time, the referee blew for full-time and the Matlock players and staff rightly celebrated an excellent away victory and a very early climb to the top of the table.
Matlock Town: Stewart (c), Cooke, Gordon, Dean, Williamson, Wiley, Smith, Rea, Marshall (Hinsley 76), Wright (Whitehead 75), Bramall (Crouz 70). Unused subs: Tague, Morris.