This was a case of unlucky Matlock.
This was the first time this season, apart from possibly at Stafford, when the result did not merit the performance. Matlock deservedly led their North East visitors for much of the contest before fate seemed to conspire against them late on.
Blyth will travel back up the A1 knowing they had committed a smash and grab act. Matlock looked like getting all three points until a mad last ten minutes, when down to ten men following the controversial sending off of Phil Roe on the hour.
Roe had been booked in the first half for a rash challenge on Lee Mason. The second booking came when he ran at pace into the Spartans penalty box and was clipped by Mason. But referee Anthony Moore pulled Roe up for simulation, awarded a free kick to Blyth and administered a second yellow card, followed by the red.
It was difficult not to feel anything but sympathy for Roe as Blyth were also given an obvious lift. But even then Matlock still looked comfortable until the official was given little sympathy from the home fans when stretchered off with a thigh injury in the 77th minute.
The match was delayed six minutes as local official Kevin Marchant took over on the line with senior assistant Phil Broadbent now promoted to referee.
Within another four minutes, Blyth were in front and added a third deep into stoppage time as Matlock threw men forward to try and save the game.
All this should not overshadow what until then was a fine Matlock performance and an excellent debut for midfielder Matt Hamshaw. With over 300 Football League games on his cv, Hamshaw soon became top of the Gladiators’ fans popularity list, with an all action display, capped by a fantastic goal in only 11 minutes.
The opening exchanges had seen Kane Richards chip narrowly over from the left and Mason fire into the sidenetting for Blyth under pressure from Roe.
But Matlock were playing some enterprising football, constantly switching play and looking for the opening. Hamshaw tried a one two with Shaun Tuton, and although Wayne Buchanan got a foot in to intercept, HAMSHAW was quickly on to the loose ball, surging past Sam Hodgson before firing a magnificent thirty yarder into the top left hand corner. Even if goalkeeper Conor Grant would have got his right hand to it, it is doubtful whether he would have stopped it.
Hamshaw tried his luck from distance again, this time Blyth being quick to charge the shot down before his free kick was missed by both Richards and Tuton in a promising goalscoring situation.
After Jon Kennedy held a Phil Airey twenty five yarder at the second attempt, it was Matlock probing again as a Lewis McMahon shot was straight at Grant. McMahon then combined with Richards to feed Hamshaw who shot narrowly over. To complete a fine opening half for the Gladiators, a Hamshaw free kick was brilliantly turned around a post by Grant. It was a pity that Town could not have aded to their slender one goal advantage.
Richards cut in to see a shot blocked as the second half got under way, with a warning for Matlock coming when Kennedy smothered a Dale shot, the giant number eleven having been allowed a far too easy route towards the Matlock goal.
Grant then produced another top class save to palm away a twenty five yarder from Adam Yates, again pushed into midfield with Micky Harcourt returning at full back and Luke Foster partnering James Lukic at the heart of the defence.
Shortly afterwards Tuton nodded a Hamshaw cross wide and would then have been disappointed not to score when he ran clear but could only slice a hurried effort wide.
After Roe’s departure, Spartans improved but without seriously suggesting they would trouble Matlock, that is until tthe change of referee.
Matlock lost concentration and with Blyth now adopting a 4-3-3 formation, they drew level when substitute ASH DAVIS held off Harcourt to fire beyond Kennedy in the 80th minute. It was quickly 2-1 as Dale headed down a right wing cross and CRAIG FARRELL scrambled in a close range finish.
Transfer listed Lee Ellington came on for Hamshaw who had run out of steam in his first game for a while. Matlock to their credit battled hard and a McMahon corner rebounded off the bar but in stoppage time with the Gladiators committed to attack, Blyth broke quickly and another scruffy goal, scored by DAVIS gave the game a most unjust scoreline.
There were plenty of positives to take from the Matlock performance and if they can reproduce this encouraging show in the games to come, they will begin picking up points. If the game had remained eleven versus eleven, then the result may well have been different.
MATLOCK TOWN: Jon Kennedy, Micky Harcourt, Phil Roe, Martin Foster, Luke Foster, James Lukic, Kane Richards, Adam Yates, Shaun Tuton,(Lee Featherstone 61), Lewis McMahon, Matthew Hamshaw (Lee Ellington 82) Other subs: Danny Deakin, Will Dennis, Nick Buxton
REFEREE: A Moore–Stockport ATTENDANCE: 286 STAR MAN: Matthew Hamshaw