On loan striker Massiah McDonald scored a 77th minute winner to send Matlock through to the next round of the FA Trophy, but it was far from plain sailing for the Gladiators at Coronation Park.
Plucky Eastwood gave it everything they had got, striking the Gladiators crossbar on no fewer than three occasions. Their hard working and enthusiasm caused Matlock a few headaches and on the balance of the play, the Badgers probably deserved a replay.
McDonald arrived on a month’s loan from Worksop and certainly pepped up the Gladiators attack. He replaced Shaun Tuton in the starting line up with Will Dennis replacing Kane Richards and Lee Featherstone coming in for the banned Phil Roe in the other changes from the team held at home by Stocksbridge seven days earlier.
Eastwood included former Gladiator T J Nightingale who admitted afterwards that he should have scored more than the one goal he got. NIGHTINGALE gave Eastwood a 16th minute lead firing past Jon Kennedy after a free kick had been knocked down into his path so any hopes Matlock had of a first clean sheet of the campaign had been quickly extinguished. Earlier Nightingale had gone close with two athletic efforts while at the other end McDonald’s persistence and work rate forced a corner and Matthew Hamshaw’s excellent delivery was cleared with difficulty.
After falling behind, Adam Yates, playing in midfield again, fired narrowly wide from distance before a half hit back pass from Featherstone put Kennedy in peril under pressure from Nightingale.
Matlock equalised on 25 minutes when McMahon’s cross struck Romaine Graham’s hand and referee Alan Hull instantly pointed to the spot. MCMAHON confidentially tucked away the penalty with his usual clinical efficiency. Will Dennis broke from deep to see his long range strike deflected behind but Eastwood’s Chris Shaw came within a lick of paint of restoring the badgers lead when his 34th minute free kick struck the bar with Kennedy beaten.
When McDonald was impeded, Hamshaw’s free kick was superbly headed away by Alex Troke before Nightingale squandered a great chance a minute before the interval. A low cross from the right by Danny Elliott caused confusion in the visiting defence and Nightingale lifterd his shot over the bar from eight yards with just Kennedy to beat.
Eastwood threatened again five minutes into the second half when a mazy run from Antony Griffiths-Junior ended with a low shot which Kennedy did well to tip around the post for a corner from which Perry Marriott headed harmlessly wide.
Kennedy was booked for handball outside the box as Eastwood pushed forward again, it was the correct decision with the ball hitting him and cover was on. Shaw struck the bar for the second time from the free kick before Matlock could have gone in front when Featherstone’s low cross from the left was stabbed wide by McMahon with goalkeeper Sam Andrew out of position.
Kennedy superbly tipped a Griffiths-Junior strike on to the bar which was proving to be a useful safety net for Matlock, the Eastwood striker having easily shaken off Dennis.
Manager Mark Atkins made what proved to be a significant change midway through the half as Kane Richards replaced Dennis. Yates reverted to full back with Richards on the right flank and Hamshaw moving into a central midfield role.
McDonald was narrowly off target following a fine run and cross by Richards before the duo combined for the match winning goal. A neat pass by the winger released MCDONALD who kept his nerve to lift a delicate shot over Andrew, the ball dropping in to the opposite corner of the goal to give the Gladiators a precious advantage. It was a just reward for McDonald’s industry.
That seemed to deflate Eastwood and Matlock finished the stronger. he hosts’ frustration came out as Shaw was booked for a late challenge on Yates with Graham joining him for pulling back McMahon. Matlock comfortably saw out time with no further alarm but had not had things all of their own way in making their way through to the 2nd Qualifying Round draw.
MATLOCK TOWN: Jon Kennedy, Will Dennis (Kane Richards 67), Lee Featherstone, Martin Foster, Luke Foster, James Lukic, Matthew Hamshaw, Adam Yates, Massiah McDonald (Joe Leesley 90 + 3), Lewis McMahon, Glyn Cotton. Other subs: Shaun Tuton, Danny Deakin, Nick Buxton.
REFEREE: A Hull–Sheffield ATTENDANCE: 186 STAR MAN: Massiah McDonald.