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Matlock 1 Witton 2
AS wins go, this one can be classified as routine.
Witton were not at their best, nor did they need to be, but in sacrificing fluidity for fight they still had too much for a Matlock team that awoke only in the contest’s closing stages.
By then Albion’s advantage was worth a decisive two goals, enough to propel them back into the table’s play-offs places.
Anthony Gardner’s penalty, the only shot on target in an opening period best forgotten, and Anthony Sheehan’s stylish second half strike preceded Martin Foster’s goal from distance for the Gladiators.
Attrition describes best everything else.
The teams’ shapes were similar, so standing out was difficult.
It took a quarter hour for the first attempt on goal, James Ashmore shooting too high after debutant Lavell White, signed from strugglers Eastwood this week, had reached the touchline from a raid out left.
Matlock might have led on 26 minutes, Massiah McDonald wriggling free from shackles applied by Ben Harrison only to drag wide his effort with the target in his sight.
Witton, victors in each of their three previous matches, were grateful for a gift to get started on a fourth successive win.
When Danny Andrews’ corner curved towards goal, Lee Featherstone, under no pressure, swatted the cross with a raised hand to concede a penalty.
Gardner’s resulting spot kick, scruffy like the previous half hour’s action, sneaked under ex-Witton goalkeeper Jon Kennedy’s body.
The visitors had leaked the first goal in five of their past seven games, so could practice protecting a lead instead.
They did so with comfort, almost doubling it before the break when Andrews flicked a pass in Shaun Tuck’s direction after Will Dennis failed to tame a bouncing ball.
In shooting stride, Witton’s top scorer was thwarted by Adam Yates’ perfectly-timed tackle.
The start of the second half was ugly too, save for Yates again averting the danger after Danny Meadowcroft’s long pass had sent Gardner scampering into space on the right.
A moment of inspiration accentuated, decisively, the difference between Albion and an opponent shorn of its most formidable attacking threat in leading marksman Lewis McMahon.
Michael Powell’s clipped assist was diverted by a defender towards Tuck, his cute touch reaching Sheehan.
With work to do, Witton’s skipper poked the ball through the legs of substitute Laurence Gaughan, on for injured skipper James Lukic, before sweeping a smart finish past Kennedy.
Matlock mustered a response, although Gaughan’s weak header from Ashmore’s corner on 73 minutes was their first attempt on target.
Within 120 seconds they scored when Martin Foster, stationed 25 yards from goal, connected sweetly with a clearance from a set piece to leave goalkeeper Stuart Plant with no chance.
It injected intensity into Mark Atkins’ men, although most of the balls they sent forward were returned – be it with head or foot – by Meadowcroft.
Witton, losers only once on this pitch in their past five league visits, made sure their newest memory was a happy one by holding on.
Witton Star Man: Danny Meadowcroft. His contribution, particularly in the final quarter hour when Matlock at last applied sustained attacking pressure to their guests, was crucial. Headed, blocked and tackled every ball that reached the edge of Witton’s penalty area.
Matlock (4-3-3) Kennedy (GK), Dennis (Hindley 87), Lukic (Gaughan 45), Yates, Feathersone, Martin Foster, Ashmore, Davies, Grayson, McDonald, White (Griffith junior 67). Subs not used Buxton (GK), Travis. Goal Martin Foster 76. Booked Lukic (foul)
Witton (4-5-1) Plant (GK), Gardner, Harrison, Meadowcroft, Wood, Shaw (Hancock 63), Sheehan, James (Glover 58), Powell, Andrews, Tuck (Steve Foster 74). Subs not used Bettley, Moseley. Goals Gardner 32 (penalty), Sheehan 60. Booked James, Wood (both fouls)
Referee Stuart Eagland (Lichfield)