The Gladiators dominated this FA Trophy tie but could not find a way past a stubborn Leek defence, even after the visitors had been reduced to ten men nine minutes into the second half.
Central defender Dan Smith handled a goalbound Joe Leesley shot on the line and was sent off but the usually reliable and ice cool Lewis McMahon fluffed his lines, pulling his penalty horribly wide. It was McMahon’s first ever failure from the spot.
Having been let off the hook, the Evo-Stik NPL First Division South visitors predictably went into ultra defensive mood and Matlock simply could not find the invention to unlock what was a stiff lock to the Leek goal.
Boosted by the fine win against Chorley in midweek, there was just one change to the line up with captain James Lukic, now fit again after illness, replacing the cup tied Oscar Radford.
Massiah McDonald shot high over the bar from a Kane Richards flick in the first minute. It was a sign of things to come.
Leek would not create a great deal all afternoon but they came close to snatching the lead on 13 minutes when Peter Wright did well to keep the ball in play on the goal-line. Jon Kennedy beat away his shot and from the rebound Dan Shelley fired against the post. It was a warning to Matlock to stay switched on.
A looping Micky Harcourt cross nearly caught goalkeeper Dan Lloyd-Weston napping three minutes later before McDonald squandered a great opportunity on 20 minutes. Sent clear by an excellent Leesley pass, he hesitated instead of shooting and Lloyd-Weston gratefully grabbed the ball off his toes.
Leesley was harshly booked after a challenge on Ricky Bridge, how Leek’s Sam Hall escaped with just a lecture for manhandling the Matlock striker in the aftermath though, and then for a fooul on Leesley straight afterwards remains a mystery!
A powerfully hit Harcourt free kick sailed wide and in a brief late flurry of Leek pressure immediately prior to the break, Shelley’s shot was deflected over the bar.
Matlock made a promising start to the new half with James Ashmore firing off target after a fine move. Leesley then robbed Tim Sanders but then drove too high.
Leek’s final attempt of note came in the 49th minute when beefcake centre forward Matt Haddrell headed a yard wide from a cross by Bridge.
From now on it was all Matlock, but with no reward.
Shortly after the penalty miss, McDonald ran on to Ashmore’s pass to shoot narrowly beyond the far post. This was the signal for Leek to introduce another defender with experienced George Melling coming on for the more attack minded Tim Grice.
McMahon’s long range strike sailed yards over the bar as Matlock became increasingly frustrated. Leek seemed to mop up everything Matlock threw at them, although the quality in and around the box from the hosts at times lefty much to be desired.
McDonald might have snatched victory with seven minutes left but Lloyd-Weston foiled him with a magnificent tip over the bar from a shot destined for the roof of his net. An effort from Algar bounced wide and Leesley’s late shot was deflected for a fruitless corner as Leek grimly held on for a replay switched to Belper on Wednesday due to ongoing maintenance work at Leek’s Harrison Park.
It had been a frustrating afternoon for all connected with Matlock Town, the one bonus being a second successive clean sheet.
MATLOCK TOWN: Jon Kennedy, Micky Harcourt, Phil Roe, (Bradley Grayson 79), Martin Foster, Adam Yates, James Lukic, Kane Richards (Lewis McMahon 46), James Ashmore, Massiah McDonald, Joe Leesley, Gareth Davies (Ben Algar 66) Other subs: Glyn Cotton, Nick Buxton.
REFEREE: C Grundy (Sheffield) ATTENDANCE: 264 STAR MAN: Martin Foster