Matlock Town lost 2-1 on Tuesday night to promotion hopefuls Warrington Town at the Proctor Cars Stadium in the Northern Premier Division.
An own goal from David Raven gave the Gladiators the lead shortly before half-time but two goals within the space of two minutes early in the second half from Benjamin Garritty and Jack Mackreth gave Warrington Town the three points.
It was a keenly-contested and hard-fought first half with both teams playing confidently in very wet conditions.
The first opportunity of the match fell very early on to Matlock’s Luke Hinsley who had a good effort from 20 yards out which only just went wide of the post.
Clear-cut chances though for both teams were rare to find in the opening 45 minutes as both teams cancelled each other out and defended well. Bailey Gooda impressed once again with important blocks and headed clearances along with the returning skipper Adam Yates and Dwayne Wiley all throughout the first half.
The deadlock was broken however in the 42nd minute in rather fortuitous circumstances for the Gladiators. A flick-on from Luke Hinsley into the penalty area and the oncoming aerial presence of Marcus Marshall seemed to panic Warrington full-back David Raven into heading back to goalkeeper Anthony McMillan without warning. McMillan managed to get a hand to the ball but it wasn’t enough to prevent the looping header from going into his own net and conceding an own goal. Matlock will have been very satisfied with going into the break in the lead after a very even and tight first half.
Unfortunately for the Gladiators, the second half was a different story. Matlock, not for the first time as a frustrated Steve Kittrick admitted in his post-match interview, never got out of the starting blocks in the opening ten minutes of the second half and were punished for this by Warrington who stepped up their tempo.
In the 50th minute, Benjamin Garritty lost his marker and met a superb right-wing cross with a header from only three yards out to give the Yellows an easy equaliser. The situation very quickly worsened for the Gladiators.
Just a minute later, Warrington won a penalty after a trip in the area and Jack Mackreth converted from the spot with confidence to suddenly put the Yellows into the lead from out of nowhere.
Matlock never really recovered from this double blow and struggled to get back into the game. Warrington bossed the rest of the second half and could well have won by a bigger margin had it not been for some inspired goalkeeping from Jon Stewart.
In the 64th minute, Stewart made an outstanding outstretched save to deny Tony Gray from heading in from eight yards out and then in the 71st minute made an absolutely superb point-blank save to deny another header from going in from the same distance.
Matlock spent the last twenty minutes soaking up a lot of pressure and it’s worth highlighting again how solid the central defensive partnership of Bailey Gooda and Dwayne Wiley was.
The home side's only clear-cut chance of the second half fell with just a minute of regulation time remaining. Luke Hinsley managed to find some space on the edge of the penalty area and scrambled a shot on target which forced a decent save from McMillan considering how wet the conditions were.
Matlock’s defeat saw them slip from fourth to fifth in the Northern Premier League and they’ll be looking to make amends for Tuesday night’s defeat this coming Saturday when the Gladiators travel to Greater Manchester to face off against Radcliffe in the league.
Matlock Town: Stewart, Yates (C), Gordon, Dean, Gooda, Wiley, Scrivens (Sinnott 74), Harris, Hinsley, Marshall, Bramall. Unused subs: Williamson, Lacey, Rea, Morris.