Stourbridge 1 Matlock Town 1
By Nigel Gregg
Stourbridge overcame a poor start to earn a deserved share of the spoils against Matlock in this season opener.
Indeed the home side might feel they should have built on Jordan Archer's first-half stoppage time equaliser and gone on to win the match after having the better of the chances in the second period.
Prior to kick-off a minutes silence in memory of our former youth team player Ryan Passey was impeccably observed by the crowd of over 1,000.
Having ditched the three-man back-line experimented with in pre-season, the home side went in with a back four with Darryl Westlake moved across to left-back, while Connor Gater, Leon Broadhurst and Aaron Forde formed a midfield three with Jordan Archer leading the line through the middle with Kayelden Brown and Jordan Murphy either side of him.
Stourbridge began sluggishly though and fell behind with just five minutes played when Stuart Pierpoint allowed a long ball to go over his head and Mark Newsham nipped in to poke the ball past the onrushing Matt Gould.
The visitors continued to enjoy the balance of play as the Glassboys struggled to gain the upper hand in midfield and all too easily gave away possession cheaply.
Stourbridge threatened for the first time in the 18th minute when a inswinging free-kick from Gater found the head of Pierpoint at the far post, but his effort was easily dealt with by Phil Barnes. Five minutes later, however, the hosts might have got back on level terms in not too dissimilar fashion to Matlock's goal. A kick downfield by Gould was pursued by Archer, holding off his marker before pushing his shot beyond the advancing Barnes, but also past the post.
A change of shape to a 4-4-2 formation as the half wore on gradually began to pay dividends. In the 43rd minute Broadhurst found Archer, who shrugged off the attentions of Dwayne Wiley before drilling a shot over from just outside of the box.
A minute into stoppage time, however, Stourbridge drew level. A cross from Murphy on the right was turned back by Broadhurst across the six-yard box and although Brown was unable to capitalise, Jordan Archer was on hand to turn the ball over the line.
Stourbridge certainly improved after the re-start and they went close on 54 minutes. Murphy cleverly slid the ball through into the run of Forde and he pulled the ball low across goal from the right-hand side of the area, finding Broadhurst at the far post, who might have taken a touch first, but elected to hit it first time, but his effort wasn't cleanly struck and Barnes was left with an easy save.
Brandon Hague replaced Brown on 55 minutes after the former West Brom man picked up an injury and the teenage sub enlivened proceedings with his pace and honest endeavour, but not before the visitors had a penalty shout rejected in the 58th minute. Rhys Sharpe tumbled into the left-hand corner of the box under a challenge from Christophorou, but the ref ruled the foul had been committed just outside the area, much to the chagrin of the Matlock bench, who made sure that the assistant looking on from 50 yards away from the offence was aware of their views on the matter!
Stourbridge responded with Gater sending a low shot wide from 20 yards and then a ball down the middle from Forde enabled Hague to outpace Wiley, however his low left-foot shot lacked the power to trouble Barnes.
As the home side continued to shade matters, Archer had a looping header saved by Barnes on his line and the Matlock stopper did the same again from an O'Callaghan header, this time following a Gater free-kick. With ten minutes remaining Hague turned to strike a snap-shot wide, but in the 86th minute Matlock almost forged back in-front. Two substitutes combined with ex-Ilkeston player Luis Rose linking with Mohammed Makeem and a dangerous low cross picked out Darnelle Bailey-King arriving at the back of the box, however his low shot was saved by Gould at his near post. In stoppage time, it was the Glassboys who went closest to a winner. Gater delivered in a flag-kick from the left and McCone rose highest to direct a header on target, but Jake Green was in the right place to clear off the line to ensure both sides collected a point apiece.
Team - Gould, Christophorou, Westlake, McCone, Pierpoint, Gater, Forde, Broadhurst, Archer, Murphy, Brown
Subs: Hague (for Brown 55 mins), O'Callaghan (for Broadhurst 73 mins), Rowe (for Archer 84 mins), Duggan, Green (not used)