A pulsating FA Cup local derby ended all square in the sun at the Reynolds Stadium on Saturday.
All four goals came in the first half before Belper had the better of the second period but could not find the decisive finish.
The Gladiators made one change from the side which started the win over Frickley four days earlier with Lee Ellington replacing Nathan Joynes who dropped to the substitutes bench. The Nailers starting line up included four ex Gladiators in Simon Harrison, Steve Warne, Ryan Mallon and Andy Rushbury, with another, Colin Marrison, on the bench.
Lewis McMahon fired at goalkeeper Aaron Chapman following a neat build up in the 2nd minute as Matlock made an encouraging start. Then Kane Richards fired narrowly wide before on 6 minutes JOE LEESLEY volleyed in a Kevin ( Danny) Deakin cross from six yards after Deakin had outpaced Aaron Pride on the left.
Rushbury forced jon Kennedy to tip over a 20 yard drive after the Gladiators surprisingly stood off him, before the action switched to the Belper end where James Lukic headed over but the offside flag was raised.
But Matlock paid expensively for poor defending as the Evo-Stik NPL First Division South side struck twice in four minutes to take the lead.
HARRISON was left unmarked to stretch and convert a Richard Adams cross in the 13th minute before Matlock were all at sea when Ashley Longstaff pulled back a low ball for PRIDE to prod in an unmissable opportunity from a couple of yards out with Jon Kennedy, Adam Yates and Lukic all out of the equation.
Claims for a penalty were refused when visiting centre half Karl Colley handled and then Matlock suffered a further blow when Leesley was stretchered off with a back injury in the 25th minute.
Shaun Tuton replaced him and he would prove to be Matlock’s saviour. His workrate was first class. Lee Ellington saw a close range effort smothered by Chapman as he looked to convert a low cross from Richards in the 42nd minute. Two minutes later TUTON equalised and it was the simplest of finishes for his first Matlock goal.
Chapman pushed out a well struck low drive from Richards but only as far as Tuton who slotted in the loose ball. Seconds later McMahon floated a twenty five yarder marginally too high and Tuton might have grabbed a another goal with a direct thrust into the heart of the Nailers defence, his low shot beating Chapman but rebounding off the foot of the post.
Kennedy pulled off a fine fingertip stop from Longstaff’s header after a Harrison free kick and was the busier of the two goalkeepers in the second half. Phil Roe nearly sliced into his own net after a long throw from Colley caused confusion in the home defence. A fine contest though was being spoilt by an inexperienced and fussy refereeing performance from Hucknall’s Liam Jones who booked four players, Matlock’s Martin Foster, Ryan Laight and Tuton plus Belper’s Harrison.
Belper increased the tempo towards the end and looked the more likely winners as Matlock defended stubbornly. but Matlock had their chances as Chapman dived at substitute Nathan Joynes’ feet and Tuton missed an absolute sitter, firing wide with the whole goal to aim at in stoppage time.
That would have been rough justice on Belper though as stwo great clearances from Lukic denied Jordan Ball in the 87th minute and then right at the death both Ball and Marrison saw shots blocked on the line by Laight and Lukic as Matlock bravely held on.
MATLOCK TOWN: Jon Kennedy, Ryan Laight, Phil Roe (Lee Featherstone 61), Martin Foster, Adam Yates, James Lukic, Kane Richards, Joe Leesley (Shaun Tuton 25), Lee Ellington, Lewis McMahon, Danny Deakin (Nathan Joynes 70)
Other subs: Luke Foster, Will Dennis, Nick Buxton
REFEREE: L Jones–Hucknall ATTENDANCE: 460 STAR MAN: Jon Kennedy