• Matthew Rhodes

REPORT/HIGHLIGHTS: Matlock trounce Ashton to go fifth

Matlock Town made it five games unbeaten on Saturday afternoon as their hard work was

rewarded with an excellent 4-1 victory over a decent Ashton United side.#

Goals from man of the match Declan Walker, Alex Byrne and Liam Hughes plus a bizarre own goal from Ashton’s Michael Raynes sealed the victory for the Gladiators which has now pushed them into a play-off spot in the NPL Premier Division league table.

It was a very tight and competitive first half which only saw the Gladiators go into the interval in the lead because of very fortuitous circumstances.

The Robins fired an early warning to Matlock in the third minute when Liam Tomsett’s 20-yard attempt whistled past the post and cannoned off the station.

In the fifth minute though, Matlock went down the other end and won a penalty. Callum

Dolan waltzed into the penalty area and, after some miscommunication between a defender and the Robins goalkeeper, Dolan was blatantly tripped as he tried to nip in and take advantage. The referee had no choice but to point to the penalty spot and up stepped Declan Walker who smashed the penalty home to Greg Hartley’s right-hand side. Hartley managed to get one hand to the ball but the Irishman’s effort was so firmly struck that it was just too hot to keep hold of for the goalkeeper.

Dolan was a very lively figure throughout the game and his pace almost put him in a one-on-one situation with the keeper in the 15th minute but an excellent last-ditch hooked clearance from Ashton’s last man prevented a golden opportunity for the Gladiators to double their lead.

Five minutes later, Dolan had the ball at his feet 22 yards out following a clearance from a corner-kick. The youngster instinctively attempted to fire the ball past Hartley but his ambitious effort sailed wide of the post.

The Robins managed to get back onto level pegging in the 26th minute. Ben Hardcastle, who

was Ashton’s best player over the 90 minutes, had time and space from 20 yards out and his

effort appeared to clip a defender as it went past a stranded Shaun Rowley and into the net.

Ashton were gaining momentum and in the 32nd minute they threatened to take the lead when Louis Almond’s effort from outside the penalty area glided over the cross bar.

The Gladiators regained the lead in strange circumstances. With pressure coming from a chasing Dolan, Robins centre-half Raynes panicked 25 yards from his own goal. All

he needed to do was to roll the ball along the pitch back to Hartley but Raynes struck the ball

with far too much power and the ball looped over the keeper’s head. When the ball was struck, Hartley was on the edge of his penalty area and the keeper almost managed to clear the ball just in time before the ball crossed the goal line but the assistant referee adjudged that the ball had just gone over the line before Hartley reached it.

Liam Hughes celebrates his goal. Photo: Jez Tighe

Matlock almost went 3-1 up on the stroke of half-time. Reece Kendall managed to meet an excellent right-wing delivery from Alex Byrne but he couldn’t quite manage to steer his close-range header on target after great pressure from his marker.

The Gladiators should have extended their lead four minutes into the second half when Dolan cut inside a defender inside the penalty area, but with the goal at his mercy, his effort lacked composure and was sent straight at Hartley who was able to palm the ball

away from danger.

The Robins’ best chance of an equaliser arrived in the 61st minute when Louis Almond’s effort from 15 yards out flashed over the bar.

Matlock’s huge work ethic paid off though and they managed to extend their lead after 68

minutes when Byrne’s effort from 15 yards out took a slight deflection which wrong-footed

Hartley and found the back of the net.

With ten minutes to go, Hughes took advantage of a tired and stretched defence to bag his fifth goal of the season, chesting the ball down from Byrne's delivery and volleying past Hartley to make it 4-1.

The Robins came very close to securing a consolation goal in the 89th minute when Hardcastle’s hard shot from ten yards out rattled off the post and away from danger.

Matlock's attention will now return to cup action as they square off against Guiseley away from home in the FA Cup third qualifying round on Tuesday evening.

Matlock: Rowley, Yates, Kendall, Egerton, Qualter, Lees, Byrne, Harris (Lingouba 75),

Hughes (c), Dolan (Johnson 54), Walker (Bond 87). Unused subs: Coppin, King.

Attendance: 532