Two points dropped for Witton?

There is no doubt which management team looked more disappointed when referee Richard Holmes blew his whistle for the final time.

Witton Albion twice led, only to be pegged back, and created a string of chances to settle the outcome during their best spell in the second-half.

The Gladiators can make a case their display deserved some reward, and efforts from Noel Burdett and Shaun Harrad that struck an upright are proof that fortune did not favour them.

However a side that had lost four of their previous half-dozen Premier Division matches, including back-to-back 3-0 reverses before this game, is unsurprisingly happier when they collect a point on their travels.

Northwich Guardian:

Rob Hopley volleys at goal during the second-half of Witton Albion's meeting with Matlock Town at Wincham Park on Saturday. Picture: Keith Clayton

To tinker, or not…

Carl Macauley decided against recalling captain Anthony Brown following a suspension, and instead paired Paul Williams – a midfielder – with Nick Ryan in central defence.

That duo had helped shut out Stourbridge last time out, but looked less certain against the clever movement of Burdett and Harrad.

The Gladiators, particularly in the first half, repeatedly played balls in to a gap between Williams and left-back Danny McKenna.

Harrad almost opened the scoring from one, prompting goalkeeper Calvin Hare to save smartly low to his right, before Burdett cut back for his strike-partner to score – in turn cancelling out Rob Hopley’s opener – after Michael Williams stroked a glorious pass to the former.

Finding the right formula

Matlock introduced Ricardo German after the interval to form a three-man attack with Burdett and Harrad with Ted Cribley moved inside to play behind them.

It yielded two goals inside a four-minute spell, putting the visitors in front at 3-2.

German fluffed a sitter too after Tom Owens had restored parity for Witton, who assumed control again when their manager changed as well to a 4-3-3 formation.

A double-change, with Micah Evans and Steven Tames sent on for James Foley and Will Jones, was followed by a third when Williams returned to midfield after Brown’s introduction for an ineffective Owen Dale.

Albion looked more comfortable, and dominated for the remainder.

Matlock’s goalkeeper: from ghastly to great

Phil Barnes will look back on his afternoon’s work with mixed emotion.

The veteran, now 38, was directly at fault for two of Witton’s goals.

First, he fumbled Prince Haywood’s pass to present Hopley with the simplest of chances.

He later allowed Paul Williams’ free-kick to squirm through his fingers.

In between, a brilliant instinctive stop thwarted Dale.

The former Gainsborough Trinity custodian was decisive in the second-half too, including one notable double-save to thwart substitute Steven Tames from close-range.

He also clawed to safety another Williams set-piece, and was in the right place to smother Hopley’s fiercely-struck volley late on.

When he was beaten again, captain Adam Yates rescued him with a goal-line clearance.

Northwich Guardian:

Witton Albion's Rob Hopley is alert to pounce on a loose ball after Matlock goalkeeper Phil Barnes spills it. The striker duly makes it 1-0. Picture: Keith Clayton

A big day for baby Brunt

After turning 16 the previous day, promising youngster Zak Brunt was gifted a debut for Matlock as a late substitute.

He has played for England’s Futsal team at under 19s level, and signed for the Northern Premier League outfit after leaving Derby County.

Jordan Pierrepont, a goalkeeper, and 17-year-old midfielder Harry Wood – both members of the Gladiators’ Academy side – were named as replacements too for the trip to Cheshire.

Another teenager, on-loan attacker Ricardo German, was on target shortly after his introduction when he blasted through a crowd of players to make it 2-2.

But Brunt, who Matlock claim was on the radar of higher-ranked clubs, was the youngest of them all to take part.