MATLOCK TOWN 1-1 BLYTH SPARTANS
The Gladiators had to settle for a point in a feisty clash at the Autoworld Arena on Tuesday night which saw eight yellow cards and a Blyth equalizer six minutes from the end.
The Northumbrians really needed all three points to keep their play off bid going but it looked as if they would make the long journey home empty handed after substitute James Ashmore had given Matlock a deserved 65th minute lead. But just one moment of indecision cost the hosts the extra two points in an otherwise excellent defensive display and Ashley Davis took full advantage.
Corey Gregory partnered Shaun Tuton in attack with Matlock’s top two scorers on the sidelines, Danny Holland starting a four match ban and Daryll Thomas missing with hamstring trouble.
Gregory had a sight of goal inside three minutes but pulled a disappointing finish yards wide of the far post. Davis forced Jon Kennedy into a comfortable save three minutes later but the opening half would belong to Matlock who could not make the most of their superiority.
Matlock swept back to the other end quickly with Tuton, who led the line superbly, creating his own chance and pulling a volley wide. Soon afterwards a Gregory attempt was smothered by goalkeeper Conor Grant and Tuton latched on to a pass from full back Adam Yates but shot fiercely high and wide.
The first booking came on 23 minutes with Danny Parker holding back Tuton who finished flat on the turf in the penalty box, but referee Connell deemed the offence to be outside the box. White forced Joe Leesley’s fine free kick wide when well placed.
Out of the blue the Spartans might have struck or rather Matlock do it for them when in the space of ninety seconds both Liam Needham and Leesley might inadvertently put the ball in their own net, Kennedy sparing Leesley’s blushes with a vital diving stop from the second scare.
The half ended with Needham being booked for a late challenge on Matthew Wade and with Matlock having kept Blyth’s most dangerous player, Robbie Dale relatively quiet.
White cut inside to shoot tamely at Grant in the opening attack of the second half before on 52 minutes, fine approach play from Leesley on the left led to Tuton forcing Grant into a fine block save at his near post.
A probing run down the right from burly midfielder Arran Wearmouth ended with a low cross flashing across the eighteen yard box before Ashmore was introduced at the expense of an unwell Cecil Nyoni.
Ten minutes after the change ASHMORE had made the difference, firing home a brilliantly executed free kick from twenty two yards after Gregory had been brought down by Ryan Cummings.
Leesley was yellow carded for allegedly blasting the ball at the prostrate Wearmouth and then Ian Watson joined him for a cynical challenge on White. In between Ashmore was ideally placed to force Dale’s shot off the line.
The flurry of cautions continued with Jack Broadhead and then Blyth substitute Ryan Hutchinson being punished for fouls on Wearmouth and Leesley respectively, with Mr Connell appearing to be struggling to maintain control.
Then came the Blyth leveller as Broadhead, otherwise faultless, failed to clear an awkward bouncing ball and DAVIS converted a scruffy effort which Kennedy got a hand to, but could not keep out.
Suddenly Blyth looked the more threatening but there was little more goalmouth action. The booking count was completed with Cummings scything down White and Yates who was ruled to be time wasting at a throw in.
Matlock can again feel a touch hard done to, they were the more accomplished outfit, but needed to take their opportunities when they were on top.
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Jon Kennedy 2 Jack Broadhead 3 Joe Leesley 4 Martin Foster 5 Oscar Radford 6 Adam Yates 7 Liam Needham 8 Cecil Nyoni ( 12 James Ashmore 55), 9 Corey Gregory 10 Shaun Tuton 11 Lavell White. Other subs: 14 Alex Bradshaw 15 Matty Wilkinson 17 Matty Leese
BLYTH SPARTANS: 1 Conor Grant 2 Ian Watson 3 Joseph Kendrick 4 Danny Parker 5 Nathan Buddle 6 Ryan Cummings 7 Paul Robinson 8 Arran Wearmouth 9 Ashley Davis 10 Matthew Wade ( 15 Ryan Hutchinson 67) 11 Robbie Dale Other subs: 12 Michael Scott 14 Boris Bonket 16 Lewis Horner
REFEREE: M Connell (Castleford) ATTENDANCE: 208 BEST GLADIATOR: Oscar Radford