• Matthew Rhodes

Five-in-a-row for Gladiators as Gainsborough are beaten

NPL Premier

Matlock Town 3

Greaves 2, 31, Qualter 66

Gainsborough Trinity 0

Matlock Town made it five wins in a row on Bank Holiday Monday with an excellent 3-0 victory over Gainsborough Trinity at the Proctor Cars Stadium.

Two goals for loan signing Jerome Greaves and a second-half strike from central defender Ryan Qualter lifted the Gladiators up into third position in the Northern Premier League Premier Division.

It leaves Matlock just one point behind top of the table South Shields and local rivals Buxton who occupy second place.

It was an excellent performance from the Gladiators throughout and they never gave a young but lively Gainsborough side much of a look-in at any point in the game.

Matlock rocketed out of the starting blocks and took the lead just two minutes into the match. The returning Liam Hughes looked to have headed the ball on target from 15 yards out to trouble the Trinity goalkeeper but Greaves got ahead of his marker to head the ball himself from close range leaving keeper Matt Yates without a chance.

Despite bossing the opening stages of the game, the Yellows did provide Paul Phillips' team with a warning in the 17th minute. Full-back Lewis Butroid fired a 20 yard free-kick on target and it looked to be heading in for an equaliser but Gladiators goalkeeper Shaun Rowley dived full length to make a terrific one handed save to palm the ball away from danger.

The Gladiators maintained a high tempo though and their pressing game continued to cause their Lincolnshire opponents problems. On the half hour mark, Matlock were rewarded with a second goal and it came in the form of Greaves once again, a superb header from the young striker who used his height advantage and his strength to punish the opposition in clinical fashion.

Alex Byrne whipped in an excellent cross deep on the right wing and his delivery was met by a fantastic leap from Greaves which took him away from his marker easily and he fired a header past the goalkeeper in a flash to hit the back of the net and make it 2-0.

The Gladiators continued to boss the game in the second half and remained firmly in control until the final whistle.

Matlock almost made it 3-0 in the 58th minute of the game. Skipper Hughes had the ball at his feet from just 12 yards out with a wall of defenders blocking his path. Hughes thought quickly and played the ball in smartly to Byrne who was arriving in from the right wing. Byrne struck for glory from just ten yards out but Yates came out really well to block the ball with his chest and conceded a corner.

The third goal soon arrived though in the 66th minute which all but killed the game off as a contest. Winger Byrne secured yet another assist when his long corner-kick from the left wing found the head of an unmarked Qualter at the back post and he steered the ball confidently past Yates to make it 3-0 to the boys in blue.

Huge credit must go to Qualter who was magnificent all game and was the best player in the game closely followed by another sterling contribution from Byrne.

Qualter's best contribution to the game wasn't actually his goal to extend Matlock's lead. The centre-half made an outstanding last-ditch tackle to prevent Trinity from almost certainly bagging a consolation goal in the 78th minute. His intervention drew wide admiration and applause from Matlock's highest crowd of the 2021/22 season so far.

Matlock managed the final few minutes of the game very comfortably and fully deserved their fifth win in a row when the final whistle blew.

What makes this great run of form even more encouraging is the fact that Matlock are winning games without key players in the starting eleven. This was only the first game back for captain and talismanHughes this season whilst Ross Hannah and Jesurun Uchegbulam were ruled out through suspension and injury respectively for the game against Gainsborough.