Gladiators suffer defeat in opener at Ashton
NPL Premier Division
Ashton Utd 2-0 Matlock Town
Matlock Town’s first competitive game for 249 days ended in defeat as they lost 2-0 to Ashton United at The Hurst Cross Stadium on the opening day of the 2021/22 league season.
First half goals from Tom Bentham and Jack Redshaw gave the Robins all three points in what was a surprisingly poor performance from the Gladiators considering how impressive they’ve been in pre-season.
Matlock’s best chance of the game was undoubtedly in the 11th minute when Callum Chippendale’s glancing header from Alex Byrne’s right-wing free-kick flashed just wide of the post. Frustratingly though, Matlock didn’t really have any other clear-cut chances other than Chippendale’s effort.
Just a minute later, Ashton had Matlock on the ropes when defender Harry Spratt hit the crossbar following a corner-kick. The Gladiators didn’t learn from the warning though and just 60 seconds later, Bentham headed home from close range to give the Robins the lead after Shaun Rowley had palmed away Michael Raynes’ effort inside the penalty box following a corner.
It went from bad to worse for Matlock after half an hour when the referee awarded a penalty to the Robins after Declan Walker handballed in the area. Forward Redshaw stepped up to take the penalty and, despite Rowley going the right way, drilled the ball into the back of the net to double Ashton’s advantage.
Ashton almost went 3-0 up in spectacular fashion in the 37th minute. Liam Tomsett went on a mazy run from the left wing into the centre before launching the ball with his right foot from 25 yards out. Thankfully for Paul Phillips’ men, the ball cannoned back off the post and back into play for the Gladiators defence to clear.
It was fair to say that the Gladiators gaffer was absolutely livid with his team’s first half performance. Matlock did improve defensively in the second half, but still glaringly lacked any creativity going forward and never really looked like getting back into the game.
Ashton continued to impress, however, and should really have won by more. In the 54th minute, Bentham almost bagged his second goal of the afternoon when his effort from an acute angle just went wide of the post.
The closest Matlock came to scoring in the second half fell in the 63rd minute when summer signing Alex Wiles managed to squeeze a shot in from 15 yards out but his effort was comfortably saved by Greg Hartley.
The Robins really should have extended their lead in the 71st minute when former Gladiator centre-half Harry Coates' header from eight yards out somehow went over the bar following an excellent corner from the right wing.
The game petered out significantly in the final 15 minutes and Ashton held on easily to their 2-0 lead until the final whistle went.
Matlock Town: Rowley, Walker, Kendall, Egerton, Qualter, Lees, Byrne (c), Wiles, Hannah (King 84), Chippendale (Uchegbulam 65), Hasani (Wafula 46). Unused subs: Sharman, Carney.
Matlock Town boss Paul Phillips:
“We were not good enough. The best team won. We weren’t winning the first balls, we weren’t winning the second balls. Too many of our players were passengers today. We prepared right for the game. Everything was done right.
"We only started playing after they started flagging after 70 minutes. I thought we were just miles off everything. It reminded me so much of the opening day defeat to Bamber Bridge last year. We just weren’t at the races. We didn’t do the right things in the right areas. We got beat on a set piece – that’s not like us.
"I won’t say much about that penalty they got. We can’t hide behind the fact that the best team won today. We missed Liam Hughes today and I think too many of the players rely on Liam Hughes as an outlet on the pitch. I thought we had a nailed-on penalty in the last 15 minutes. But there’s no denying that Ashton were more dynamic to us – they were quicker to the ball.
“I can’t make many changes to the side for the game against Basford, I haven’t got enough players in the squad to be doing that. I’m not going to start just throwing people under the bus because they’ve under-performed for one game. I’ve brought these players in because I know what they can do…I’m just gutted that we’ve not got off to a good start. But we’ve got to pick ourselves up and make sure we’re ready to go on Tuesday night.”