Matlock Town’s league troubles continued when an improving Gainsborough Trinity inflicted their second festive season defeat on New Year’s Day, in a 2-1 win.
It was a disappointing start to the new decade for Matlock who looked as if they had rescued a point when Dan Bramall netted with 11 minutes remaining to cancel out Greg Smith’s 25th-minute opener.
But only three and a half minutes later Trinity substitute Mitchell Dunne slammed in the winner to earn another valuable victory to add to their 5-1 Boxing Day trouncing of Grantham.
Just why Matlock are unable to replicate their outstanding FA Trophy form in league games remains a mystery. They have now slid down to 16th spot after leading the table in early September and are now starting to look nervously over their shoulders.
Manager Steve Kittrick made two changes to the side beaten by Buxton on Boxing Day, one enforced, the other by choice.
Dwayne Wiley’s hamstring injury saw Adam Yates come into the back four, at full-back while Spencer Harris partnered Bailey Gooda in the middle. The other change brought much debate among fans prior to kick-off as Jon Stewart was recalled in goal after his suspension in place of young Dan Wallis.
“That’s one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make,” said Kittrick during the pre-match preparations.
Stewart lined up against one of his former clubs, as did Ben Gordon while the Holy Blues included James Williamson, Michael Williams and Curtis Morrison who had turned out for the Gladiators at some point or other, Trinity assistant boss Martin Foster also being a former Matlock player. Former Gladiators fans favourite Ross Hannah was an unused substitute.
The visitors were forced mostly on to the defensive in the early exchanges with busy midfielder Simon Russell shooting narrowly wide. Matlock’s response was a curling cross from Tomas Poole which dropped on to the top of the goal frame but the men in white and navy could and probably should have taken a 13th-minute lead when Sam Scrivens released Marcus Marshall on the left. The number nine’s incisive run into the box ended with a pull back for Jordan Sinnott who lifted his shot high over the bar from 12 yards.
Matlock now looked marginally the better side but could not trouble home custodian Lloyd Allinson due to a faulty final ball with moves constantly breaking down shortly before reaching the danger area.
They fell behind in the 25th-minute when after a corner on the right was partially cleared, the ball was recycled back into the centre for Gregg Smith to glance into the net. Yet again it was a goal which could easily have been avoided with better concentration and attention to detail.
The remainder of the half was a frustrating affair, particularly from the Matlock viewpoint as moves continued to break down, They lost Poole through injury eight minutes before the break with Bramall coming on, badly needing some spark.
Trinity forced three successive corners which Matlock survived with relative comfort, the only shot of note in this period before the interval coming from Shane Clark which flashed wide from the edge of the box.
Kittrick brought on Chib Chilaka for Sinnott at half-time and there was nearly an immediate impact, the burly Nigerian close to connecting with a ball into the box which Allinson saw quickly to gather.
Adam Yates drove wide from 20 yards shortly afterwards but Stewart was the busier of the two number ones overall, firstly saving well from Nathan Stainfield’s header five minutes into the new half.
Matlock began to enjoy more of the possession but still could not cause too much worry for Allinson.
An ambitious overhead shot from Chilaka dropped wide before Scrivens found himself in space on the right but his low cross was again cut out by a resilient Holy Blues back line.
Morrison had a chance for Gainsborough from the left but again Stewart was more than equal to the challenge, his huge frame keeping out the shot.
Declan Bacon was through on goal after a misdirected clearing header but pulled his effort wide of the far post in the 78th-minute.
His miss looked to be costly as Matlock’s best move of the contest brought them the equaliser virtually straightaway.
Yates surged down the right and his tantalising cross this time found Bramall who steered a smart first time finish past Allinson.
Luke Hinsley shot high and wide as the momentum appeared to be in the Gladiators’ favour but Curtis Woodhouse’s men boxed clever and Matlock’s joy soon turned to despair.
Stewart superbly tipped away a rasping shot from Dunne but the ball was swiftly returned to the centre where Dunne at the back post struck a firm low shot which gave Stewart no chance.
Stainfield continued to win virtually everything in the air as Matlock sought a second equaliser but Trinity’s cause was helped as Matlock, despite a better second-half performance, could not find the extra composure and quality where it mattered.
The nearest they came was in the second-minute of stoppage time, Luke Dean’s shot being narrowly wide as Trinity breathed a huge sigh of relief to hold on and make it four games unbeaten in their bid to avoid the drop.
GAINSBOROUGH TRINITY: 1 Lloyd Allinson 2 James Williamson 3 Jamie Green 4 Shane Clarke (14 Billy Chadwick 61) 5 Will Thornton 6 Nathan Stainfield 7 Michael Williams 8 Simon Russell 9 Gregg Smith 10 Declan Bacon 11 Curtis Morrison (15 Mitchell Dunne 67) Other subs: 12 Joe Maguire 16 Ross Hannah 17 Michal Antkowiak
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Jon Stewart 2 Adam Yates 3 Ben Gordon 4 Luke Dean 5 Spencer Harris 6 Bailey Gooda 7 Sam Scrivens 8 Luke Hinsley 9 Marcus Marshall 10 Jordan Sinnott (12 Chib Chilaka 46) 11 Tomas Poole (15 Dan Bramall 37) Other subs: 14 Piteu Crouz 16 James Tague 17 Dan Wallis
REFEREE: David Jones (Scunthorpe). ATTENDANCE: 613. BEST GLADIATOR: Adam Yates.