Albion twice let slip lead before coming from behind to draw in thrilling encounter
Match Report kindly supplied by: Andrew Simpson, Senior Sports Writer, Northwich Guardian
THE fact both teams can make a case they might have won means a draw is probably the right outcome.
Shaun Harrad’s half-volley rattled an upright in the third minute of added time for Matlock, who owed goalkeeper Phil Barnes a debt of thanks they hadn’t already long since been beaten. Ironically, it was his mistakes in the first-half that left them playing catch-up. It was that sort of game.
Albion boss Carl Macauley tried to highlight the positives afterwards, chiefly that his side had created more chances and responded the right way after conceding twice in a four-minute spell after the interval. But he was exasperated too by their frailty while defending set-pieces to have been exposed once again.
Witton were the more threatening team throughout, and on another afternoon Rob Hopley would have taken home the match-ball. He gleefully accepted a gift from the Gladiator’s custodian, who inexplicably spilled Prince Haywood’s through-ball with the front man closing in, to break the deadlock.
By then Matlock had already served warning of their attacking capability, and net-minder Calvin Hare used his fingertips to deny Harrad after the striker had burst onto Nico De Girolamo’s assist.
The visitors’ leveller on 20 minutes was similarly crafted. Michael Williams caressed a perfectly-weighted pass into Noel Burdett’s path, and he cut back for Harrad to sweep in.
Barnes made up for his earlier error when he instinctively jabbed a boot in the way of Owen Dale’s close-range attempt before Burdett poked against the near post after showing Paul Williams a clean pair of heels.
Albion edged ahead again though when Barnes allowed William’s free-kick, struck true from 25 yards, to squirm through his hands and into the corner. (Captured on video by Vijay Anthwal)
Matlock, emboldened by co-managers Craig Hopwood and Glenn Kirkwood introducing on-loan striker Ricardo German to form a three-man attack, turned over their deficit inside seven second-half minutes.
First, the substitute drilled through a crowd of players to level after Albion failed to clear a corner. Captain Adam Yates then reacted quickest to thump a header past Hare after Michael Williams’ free-kick looped skywards off a defender’s head.
Jolted, Witton restored parity swiftly. Will Jones flicked a long ball into Hopley’s path, and he nudged it far enough for Tom Owens not to have to break stride to beat Barnes for 3-3. (Captured above by Keith Clayton)
In a chaotic spell while Albion adjusted to their guests’ change of shape, German skewed off-target with only Hare to beat.
Macauley sent on Steve Tames and Micah Evans to match Matlock’s formation, and it worked a treat. Barnes produced a brilliant double-stop to thwart Tames after Hopley picked him out, then parried Williams’ curling free-kick to safety.
When the hosts next sent the ball into the box, Hopley’s well-struck shot flew straight at Matlock’s number one. When Albion did beat him, captain Adam Yates was there to smuggle off the line from Hopley.
It was not solely one-way traffic though, and Witton were almost knocked off course by Harrad’s spectacular effort with time running out.
Witton | 4-4-2 | Hare (GK), Gardner, Ryan, Paul Williams, McKenna, Foley (Tames 56), Haywood , Owens, Dale (Brown 66), Hopley & Jones (Evans 56) Subs not used: Lingouba & Neild (GK) Goals: Hopley 12, Paul Williams 42 & Owens 55
Matlock | 4-4-2 | Barnes (GK), De Girolamo, Yates, Wiley (German 46), Sharpe (Whitehead 68), Green, Doyle-Charles, Michael Williams, Cribley, Harrad & Burdett (Brunt 87) Subs not used: Wood & Pierrepont (GK) Goals: Harrad 20, German 48 & Yates 52 Booked: Green (foul)
Referee Richard Holmes Attendance 320