Matlock Town 1-1 Rushall Olympic
Spirited Matlock put in a battling performance to end their goalless run at the fourth attempt on Tuesday night.
Rushall arrived at the Autoworld Arena on the cusp of the play offs, having hit the Gladiators for six on their own patch just a month earlier, but the two points they dropped might just prove to be crucial in the final analysis and like Matlock, see them playing Evo-Stik NPL Premier Division football next season.
The Pics will rue not making more of a first half they controlled for long periods, putting the Gladiators on the back foot. But despite losing full back Micky Harcourt with a nasty leg injury in the 13th minute, the hosts dug in to go in at the break all square. That soon changed when Ahmed Obeng shot Rushall in front two minutes after the restart, but going behind brought the best out of Matlock and they earned a good point thanks to Danny Holland’s 17th goal of the campaign, fourteen minutes from the end.
Holland’s striking partner Shaun Tuton earned an instant recall after suspension in one of three changes from the draw at Barwell with Cecil Nyoni and Martin Foster starting in midfield. The injured Daryll Thomas, plus Lavell White and James Ashmore were omitted.
Rushall applied pressure immediately and following a faulty 2nd minute clearance from Adam Yates, Obeng cut in to drive fiercely at Jon Kennedy before the ball was scrambled clear.
That would be Yates’ only error, Town’s current player of the year excelling alongside Oscar Radford, culpable in the debacle at Dales Lane,who was outstanding.
Obeng had another chance on 9 minutes but hooked high and wide from an acute angle before Micky Harcourt twice went down in a heap in two minutes, the second of which saw him limp off to be replaced at full back by Ashmore.
Josh Craddock was twice off target before Jack Duggan drove carelessly too highs the chances were falling to Rushall.
But Matlock had decent penalty claims rejected by referee Smith who let too much go, a style which suited Rushall’s physical approach. Holland looked to be clattered in the back by Gavin Caines.
As Matlock came more into the contest, a neat turn on the right from Tuton saw his low cross flash across the penalty box before Matlock survived a scramble from a 43rd minute corner, the danger ending when Christian Dacres nodded over the bar.
But Matlock found themselves trailing when OBENG turned sweetly on the edge of the penalty area to bamboozle Ashmore and fire just inside Kennedy’s left hand post.
The response from the Gladiators was terrific and they might have levelled eight minutes later when Tuton’s deft flick played Corey Gregory clear. The midfielder delicately lifted his finish over the advancing Chris Gemmell but the ball bounced agonizingly the wrong side of the upright.
Jimmy Turner was finally deservedly booked for bringing down Tuton , with Liam Spink later joining him for scything down Nyoni. Joe Leesley wasted the free kick floating the ball harmlessly over the bar. Rushall amazingly won a free kick when it looked as if substitute Lavell White had been fouled in the box by Spink.
But an unjustified lowest crowd of the season of only 166 was cheering when Tuton’s strength set up HOLLAND who smacked a firm 12 yard drive beyond the diving Gemmell to set up a potentially explosive final fourteen minutes.
It was Rushall though who came closest to all three points when James Dance’s 82nd minute free kick was brilliantly kept out low to his left by Kennedy, before looping up against the bar and being ushered away from arms length.
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Jon Kennedy 2 Micky Harcourt (12 James Ashmore 13) 3 Joe Leesley 4 Martin Foster 5 Oscar Radford 6 Adam Yates 7 Liam Needham 8 Cecil Nyoni 9 Danny Holland 10 Shaun Tuton 11 Corey Gregory (14 Lavell White 63) Other subs: 15 Liam Gaughan 16 Alex Bradshaw 17 Matty Leese
RUSHALL OLYMPIC: 13 Chris Gemmell 2 Jimmy Turner 3 Matt Wood (17 Zak Martin 46) 4 Jack Duggan 5 Gavin Caines 6 Josh Craddock 7 Carl Palmer ( Liam Spink 37) 8 Christian Dacres 9 Karl Ashton 10 Ahmed O’Beng (12 Stan Mugisha 90), 11 James Dance Other subs: 14 Sam Smith 16 Wayne Daniel
REFEREE: A N Smith (Castleford) ATTENDANCE: 166 BEST GLADIATOR: Oscar Radford