It was a welcome point for Matlock but manager Mark Atkins reflected that cheap goals conceded by his side cost them the chance to come home with a much needed victory.
“If you score three away from home, you should really be winning the game” he said.
Few would argue with that assessment as both teams looked shaky at the back. Given there were six goals, it wasn’t a thrilling match, more a battle of attrition with some meaty challenges from both sides, and some strange refereeing from Grimsby’s Neil Guest, an arrogant official who has punished Matlock in the past in his attempts to be the centre of attention.
Matlock led twice then found themselves behind thanks to conceding two quick goals for the fourth successive fixture. Their equaliser came from what has been a dry route so far this season, a fabulous header from transfer listed Lee Ellington, his first competitive Matlock goal.
Matlock made one change from the team unluckily beaten by Blyth three days earlier. Matt Hamshaw was unavailable due to work commitments, so Monday night’s signing, Glyn Cotton from Frickley, came in.
It was a cold and breezy night in the open South Kesteven Stadium with the first chance falling to the Gingerbreads as Rhys Lewis flicked a corner wide from the near post. Set pieces nearly caused Matlock’s downfall as two of the three Grantham goals came in this fashion, while the other was a terrible error from goalkeeper Jon Kennedy.
Matlock’s injury situation took another knock as Micky Harcourt limped off in the 9th minute to be replaced by young Will Dennis. Mr Guest cautioned Harcourt in somewhat bizarre fashion as he left the field which looked to be a signal of what was to follow from the official.
A scrappy contest was ignited by Matlock’s 19th minute opener as James Lukic stretched to redirect a free kick back into the danger area. Shaun Tuton’s shot was blocked but LEWIS McMAHON was on hand to bundle in from point blank range.
Within two minutes Kennedy did well to block from Jamie McGhee before being booked two minutes later for a mistimed challenge on Phil Roe. Then Lewis swept past Dennis and Kennedy again saved well as the suspicion was clearly in Matlock fans’ minds that they might have to score more than once to win the contest.
Kane Richards beat Lee Potts on the right only to spoil his hard work with a cross well out of Shaun Tuton’s reach. As Grantham sought their equaliser, central defender Michael Jacklin’s hoisted cross had to be pushed behind by Kennedy as it threatened to sneak just under the bar.
But the hosts found a leveller on 38 minutes when Cotton’s foul gave away a free kick and EMEKA NWADIKE was free to guide a low effort past Kennedy.
Just a minute later though and Matlock were back in front when Lee Potts handled in the box and McMahon blasted in the penalty with his customary finesse. An unfriendly end to the opening half saw both Tuton and Martin Foster collect yellow cards for zealous tackles, and with Tuton living on the edge after a number of misdemeanours in a full seven minutes of added time, Atkins wisely brought him off at the interval to send on Ellington.
Kennedy nervously pushed away a long range strike from Connor Higginson as the second half got under way, but at the other end, Ellington, finally showing some of the class that Matlock fans desperately wanted to see, intelligently played in McMahon, but the chance went begging as the two goal man was forced wide.
After Adam Yates had a shot charged down, Roe struck a glorious 55th minute attempt against the bar. Such are the fine margins between mediocrity and glory or even failure and success.
This set Grantham back on the attack again as Matlock held on for now with Dennis becoming the fourth Gladiator to go in the book for impeding Lewis. However, Kane Richards ducked away from a headed chance and Nwadike was forced to improvise to nod a centre behind for a corner.
Home substitute Tony Battersby’s shot was deflected wide but from the corner, slack marking from Matlock let in PHIL WATT for an easy 72nd minute goal. If that was a sickener to Atkins and the fans, then only ninety seconds later the manager must have been thinking the whole world was against him when HIGGINSON tried his luck from thirty yards. The shot was straight at Kennedy, but the worst possible scenario for Matlock unfolded as the ball slithered through the goalkeeper’s hands and spun over the line.
Now Matlock were staring down the barrel of despair but on 79 minutes a determined break down the left by full back Roe, who looks far happier attacking than defending as his impetuousity nearly cost Matlock at the back on more than one occasion, was followed by a peach of a cross which was headed emphatically past James Lindley by ELLINGTON.
That completed the scoring but not the anxiety for Matlock as Martin Ball’s thirty yarder flashed inches wide and Kennedy made a crucial block save from Jacklin’s late header.
MATLOCK TOWN: Jon Kennedy, Micky Harcourt (Will Dennis 9, Danny Deakin 86), Phil Roe, Martin Foster, Luke Foster, James Lukic, Kane Richards, Adam Yates, Shaun Tuton (Lee Ellington 46), Lewis McMahon, Glyn Cotton.
Other subs: Lee Featherstone, Nick Buxton.
REFEREE: N Guest–Grimsby. ATTENDANCE: 234 STAR MAN: Lewis McMahon