9:00am Monday 2nd December 2013
By Andrew Simpson
MATLOCK must wonder if they will ever score again on a visit to Wincham Park.
Their past five journeys home from a Premier Division encounter have been empty-handed, and goalless.
In contrast Witton, now victors in the past four league games on their own pitch, are happy at home again.
They would have been less so had substitute Joe Leesley not twice been denied by Matt Cooper in the contest’s closing stages, on both occasions when the Gladiators’ front man was face-to-face with Albion’s net-minder.
For those moments alone, Matlock can make a case that they merited more than nothing.
Though that is what they ended up with which for Witton, after back-to-back shutouts for only the second time this season, probably feels psychologically important.
They are likely frustrated too that a sequence of nine league games that includes a single defeat has not propelled them further up the table.
Boss Brian Pritchard is hoping new striking recruit, former Hednesford front man Aaron Rey, can help them do exactly that.
His debut, after signing the previous evening, gave glimpses of the benefit he will later bring to an attack short of dynamism in recent weeks.
This contest, a close one, was settled in their favour by a goal from returning Anthony Gardner – making his first start since September.
It was the game’s outstanding moment.
Jon Breeze and Michael Powell diverted the ball inside from the left touchline, sending it in Danny Andrews’ direction.
Aware of Gardner advancing outside him, his pass was weighted perfectly for the full back to control and then shoot into the corner without breaking stride.
After 20 minutes, it reflected the hosts’ superiority.
By then Andrews’ free kick had curved wide, while Jon Dawson could not keep down an attempt at goal with his instep after Andrews turned provider.
In the aftermath of breaking through, Breeze blasted off target after Gardner launched a counter-attack in which Powell and Dawson combined to tee up their fellow midfielder.
Matlock made a chance of at the other end, but Bradley Grayson made a mess of a glancing header after ghosting into a space from which he met a corner.
Danny Holland repeated the trick, albeit from a more difficult opportunity, when Micky Harcourt’s cross from the right picked him out.
The visitors spent more time in home territory after half time, though they toiled to find gaps in a backline marshalled with authority by Ben Harrison and Rob Bodie.
Substitute Lavell White snatched at an opening, probably because of its rarity.
Grayson made a better job than he had in the first half when shooting with power on 69 minutes, but on neither occasion did the Matlock man force Cooper to intervene.
Leesley did, escaping Bodie’s attention only for Witton’s custodian to smother his shot.
His sight of goal was without obstacle again with four minutes left, but Cooper’s boot blocked his low drive.
Witton Star Man: Matt Cooper. Seldom occupied by Matlock, but when called upon his saves – both to deny substitute Joe Leesley – were as decisive as Anthony Gardner’s first half goal.
Witton (4-4-2) Cooper (GK), Gardner, Bodie, Harrison, Brown, Andrews, Breeze, Powell, Dawson (Thompson 70), Rey, Parkhouse Subs not used Plant (GK), Crofts, Hancock, Moseley Goal Gardner 20
Matlock (4-4-2) Hedge (GK), Harcourt, Haggerty, Yates, Radford, Needham, Foster, Ashmore (White 46), Gregory (Leesley 62), Holland, Grayson Subs not used Leese (GK), Featherstone, Nyoni Booked Radford (foul)
Referee Matthew Jones
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