Matlock Town 0-0 Ashton United
Fourth placed Matlock and eleventh in the table Ashton fought out their second scoreless draw of the season on Tuesday night after the stalemate at Hurst Cross eight weeks earlier.
There was no lack of effort from both sides and even if the quality was lacking in a closely fought competitive affair, the match was always on a knife edge as one error on a sodden pitch would have proved costly and crucial.
Bradley Grayson was handed his first start of the campaign following his return from Sweden with top scorer Darryl Thomas out with a thigh strain. Otherwise the Gladiators fielded the starting line up which had beaten Ilkeston three days earlier.
Ashton though looked a different proposition to Ilkeston. Quick into the challenge they successfully denied Matlock the space and time to play their football. The visitors also looked speedy on the break although they only once tested Town custodian Jon Kennedy all evening when Gary Gee’s fiercely struck first timer from distance was expertly held by the goalkeeper. It would have been understandable if the shot had squirmed from Kennedy’s grasp given the slippery ball with the rain sheeting down.
Ashton might have taken a fortunate first minute lead when following a free kick from deep on the left, the ball dropped and deflected narrowly wide off Adam Yates for a corner.
Danny Holland, the match winner on Saturday, turned provider with a fine low cross from the right on four minutes which flashed menacingly across the penalty box before eight minutes later snatching at a chance on the edge of the penalty box, the ball swerving wide.
It then became a midfield slog with referee Bradshaw frustrating the home crowd as fouls by Ashton players went unpunished while the hosts were pulled up for similar offences. Defender Jack Higgins tried his luck from thirty five yards, his ambitious effort drifting wide as Kennedy had it covered before Martin Pilkington looked to have gone in late on Kennedy on the edge of the box to force the first of two quick corners.
Holland sliced a back post cross from Joe Leesley wide before an excellent challenge from full back Cavell Coo stopped Lavell White from converting a long pass which saw him initially outstrip the Robins defence.
Grayson’s header from a White cross lacked venom and was comfortably gathered by Ashton’s Paul Phillips and after a faulty back pass from Higgins saw Matlock force a bonus of a corner, this was promptly cleared with Joe O’Neill firing across the six yard box as Ashton broke at pace.
White glanced a Grayson cross well wide at the start of the second half as the chances dried up. A Jason Gorton header from a free kick again failed to trouble Kennedy before the only telling goalmouth action came on 69 minutes. After Chris Lynch had been booked for tripping substitute Lewis McMahon, Harcourt’s ferociously struck shot direct from the free kick was superbly pushed skywards by Phillips, the ball dropping on to the bar and down before McMahon clearly forced the loose ball in with his arm to promptly join Lynch in the referee’s notebook.
Four more substitutions followed but none of them proved to be magical ones as a battle where no quarter was asked nor given ended all square.
It needed something special to break the deadlock. That wasn’t on offer, nor was a terrible mistake or lucky deflection. Neither side deserved to lose, equally neither did enough to deserve the extra two points in a tense tussle.
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Jon Kennedy 2 Micky Harcourt 3 Joe Leesley 4 Martin Foster 5 David Haggerty 6 Adam Yates 7 Liam Needham 8 Corey Gregory 9 Danny Holland 10 Bradley Grayson (12 James Ashmore 77) 11 Lavell White (16 Lewis McMahon 57) Other subs: 14 Lee Featherstone 15 Oscar Radford 17 Matty Leese
ASHTON UNITED: 1 Paul Phillips 2 Cavell Coo 3 Greg Pearson 4 Jack Higgins 5 Chris Lynch 6 Jason Gorton 7 Gary Gee 8 Ashley Young ( 12 Lee Rick 70) 9 Joe O’Neill 10 Martin Pilkington (15 Matthew Chadwick 75) 11 Kayde Coppin (14 Lewis Killeen 88) Other subs: 16 Ben Richardson 17 Steve Halford
REFEREE: Mr D Bradshaw (Rotherham) ATTENDANCE: 273 BEST GLADIATOR: David Haggerty