Pitching In Northern Premier League
Saturday 4 December 2021
Ten man Stafford Rangers dug deep to pick up all three points from their trip to high flying Matlock Town.
Despite the appalling conditions the two sides served up an incident packed thriller that contained a penalty and two red cards.
Rangers’ pre-match plans were hampered when captain Alex-Ray Harvey picked up a back injury in the warm up. Louis Malandrou stepped up from the bench and did an excellent job – until a moment of madness saw him sent off later in the game.
Facing a strong wind and driving rain, Rangers found themselves a goal down before their shirts had got wet. Luke Pilling clawed away Alex Byrne’s corner but only as far as Liam King who fired home a first time shot.
Liam Hughes headed over from another Byrne corner but it was Rangers who struck next when Jake Charles levelled the scores on 19 minutes with a 22 yard strike after he had held off Ioan Evans.
Alex Fletcher went close to putting Rangers in front but the better chances were falling Matlock’s way as Jesurun Uchegbulam fired across the face of goal before Pilling parried a shot from Byrne out for a corner.
It was Byrne who restored Matlock’s lead on 31 minutes when a cross / shot from the right floated in at the far post.
A similar ‘effort’ from Tom Tonks a minute later was inches away from levelling matters once more.
With the wind behind them after the interval, Rangers were a more dominant force. Theo Bailey-Jones miskicked inside the area when well placed then Ryan Qualter headed a Tonks corner off the line.
Tonks was in the right place at the near post when he forced home the equaliser on 56 minutes, getting on the end of Andy Burns’ centre from the right.
Matlock introduced striker Ross Hannah to the proceedings as the home side looked to get back in front and Hughes was denied by an excellent tackle from James O’Neill when well placed.
The game turned Rangers’ way when they were awarded a penalty after Evans hauled Khaellem Bailey-Nicholls to the ground. But before the spot kick could be taken, Malandjou raised his hands to Byrne and was sent off. Charles kept his focus and fired home the penalty to put Rangers in front with 14 minutes remaining.
A man down, it was backs to the wall as Matlock threw everything forward in search of the point that would have taken them to the top of the table.
Hannah glanced home a header on 85 minutes but his celebrations were cut short by an offside flag.
Reece Kendall fired wide and O’Neill cleared off the line before lady luck showed she was on Rangers’ side when Hughes’ shot struck the post and ricocheted on to Pilling and over the bar while O’Neill made another block to deny Alex Wiles.
Rangers held on to record back to back league wins for the first time since beating Matlock at the end of the 2018/19 season.
Shortly after the final whistle, Matlock skipper Hughes was shown the red card for comments made to the referee.
Matlock Town: 1 Paul Cooper, 2 Jamie Sharman (15 Ross Hannah 60m), 3 Reece Kendall, 4 Ioan Evans, 5 Ryan Qualter, 6 Mark Lees (17 Luke Hall 77m), 7 Alex Byrne, 8 Alex Wiles, 9 Liam Hughes, 10 Jesurun Uchegbulam, 11 Liam King (12 Callum Chippendale 72m). Unused Subs: 14 Matt Sargeant, 16 Craig King
Stafford Rangers: 13 Luke Pilling, 2 Andrew Burns, 3 Ben Woods, 4 Louis Malandjou, 5 Ethan Stewart, 6 James O’Neill, 7 Joe Kenton, 8 Tom Tonks, 9 Jake Charles, 10 Alex Fletcher, 11 Theo Bailey-Jones (14 Khaellem Bailey-Nicholls 67m (16 Michael Lennon 86m)). Unused Subs: 12 Michael Tait-Moran, 15 Jon Moran, 17 Jude Hill
Cautions: Kendall, Evans, Dave Wild (Asst Manager) (Matlock), Pilling (Rangers)
Sent Off: Hughes – after final whistle (Matlock), Malandjou (Rangers)
Referee: Matthew Tyres
Report: Chris Elsley