Monday 24th February 2014
by Ian Richardson
Rushall Olympic 6-1 Matlock Town FC
Saturday 22nd February 2014, ko 3pm
EvoStik League, Premier Division
What a way to lose your unbeaten start to 2014! Matlock conceded six goals in a crazy second half, after leading at half time, as Rushall took full advantage of the conditions, plus some dubious refereeing, to put Matlock to the sword.
But referee Smart, (whose name did not match his performance!), cannot be blamed for some of the crass defensive play that Matlock produced, which is really out of keeping with their usual solidity.
Some of the mistakes were embarrassing, the hope being is that Matlock have made all of their mistakes in one game. Next time out they have to get back to the basics of no nonsense defending which has served them well so far this campaign.
Matlock named an unchanged side from the one victorious at Frickley a fortnight earlier but added under 19's striker Matt Andrews to their bench.
Rushall, a big physical unit, left out former Football League marksman Dele Adebola, but had several six footers in their line up, and in the second half particularly, were too strong for the Gladiators.
Matlock had the wind and the slope with them in the opening half but did not take full advantage of this.
There was little quality from either side in the opening exchanges. An off balance James Ashmore sliced wide from the edge of the box in the 12th minute before Rushall created a more clear cut chance six minutes later when winger Stan Mugisha forced Jon Kennedy into a fine blocking save.
But Matlock settled down and the match took a nasty turn in the 25th minute when at a Matlock free kick, both Micky Harcourt and Josh Craddock were booked after Mr Smart had a lengthy talk with his assistant following a clash in the box.
Danny Holland was unlucky not to give Town a 34th minute lead when after being well picked out by striking partner Shaun Tuton, he smashed a fierce strike goal wards only for Pics goalkeeper Chris Gemmell to pull off an outstanding save.
But two minutes afterwards the partnership worked in reverse as Matlock went in front.
A neat assist from Holland saw Gladiator's Man of the Match, Shaun Tuton (left), with time and space - and he drew Gemmell, before sliding home a precise low shot.
Now Matlock had something to build on - but unfortunately - that was as good as it got for them.
Just three minutes after the restart, the Pics were awarded a free kick 25 yards out.
James Dance punishing the Gladiators to the full as his drive could only be parried into the net by the diving Kennedy.
Kennedy (left) then came to Matlock's rescue with a hat-trick of excellent stops, denying Dance from another free kick and also keeping out efforts from Josh Craddock and home skipper Carl Palmer.
There was no doubt now that Matlock were up against it, their cause not being helped when Harcourt left the action through injury in the 58th minute.
Adam Yates moved from midfield to right back and Matlock had then lost some of the physical presence in midfield needed to combat the burly number six Christian Dacres, who stood as a tall barrier in protecting his back four.
Yet another free kick led to Rushall overturning their deficit in the 67th minute. Dance this time struck the bar, the ball dropping invitingly for Karl Ashton to fire home the rebound from close range.
Tuton was harshly booked, presumably for simulation as he was challenged in the Rushall box.
Then it went spectacularly worse for Matlock. On 72 minutes, Oscar Radford, in trying to nod a long punt upfield by Gemmell back to Kennedy, looked on in horror as the ball bounced apologetically into an unguarded net.
Now it was game over!
Another horrible error by Radford who passed straight to Mugisha saw the Rushall number eleven gratefully snap up the gift.
It was soon five when Joe Leesley was adjudged to have handled in the box and Dance stepped up to comfortably convert the penalty.
There was still time for Matlock to hand Rushall yet another present which was again taken by Mugisha, who made it six with three minutes remaining.
So where did that defensive horror show come from?
The Gladiators conceded a fifth of their season's total in thirty games during that crazy second half. The most frustrating aspect was that Rushall did not have to work hard for their goals.
Matlock hope it will be just one blip and that normal service will be resumed for the rest of the season.
1 Chris Gemmell, 2 Jimmy Turner, 3 Matty Wood, 4 Sam Smith,
5 Jack Duggan, 6 Christian Dacres, 7 Carl Palmer,
8 Josh Craddock (12 Liam Spink, 85), 9 Karl Ashton (14 Dele Adebola, 79),
10 James Dance, 11 Stan Mugisha
Subs not used: 15 Wayne Daniel, 16 Gavin Caines, 17 Jamie Spencer
1 Jon Kennedy, 2 Micky Harcourt (15 Lavell White, 58), 3 Joe Leesley,
4 Martin Foster (12 Daryll Thomas, 77), 5 David Haggerty, 6 Oscar Radford,
7 Liam Needham, 8 James Ashmore, 9 Danny Holland (14 Corey Gregory, 77),
10 Shaun Tuton, 11 Adam Yates
Subs not used: 16 Matt Andrews, 17 Matty Leese
REFEREE: E Smart (West Midlands)
BEST GLADIATOR: Shaun Tuton
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