Belper Town 3-3 Matlock Town
Jason Stokes scored a last gasp equaliser to add to Danny Holland’s second headed goal of the local derby to earn Matlock a deserved point at the Marstons Stadium on Bank Holiday Monday.
The Gladiators trailed by two goals going into the last five minutes, but rallied superbly after being the better side for much of the second period.
It had been a topsy-turvy clash with Holland failing to convert a 15th minute spot kick which would have given him a hat-trick, then Belper replied incisively to net twice within ninety seconds through Regan Edridge and Robert Stevenson before Holland quickly scored his first goal.
A third goal for the Nailers from Evan Garnett looked to have put the match beyond the visitors, but a never say die attitude coupled with them looking the stronger side throughout the second period earned them their point as a second Holland header on 86 minutes was then followed by Stokes’ dramatic late intervention.
Corey Gregory replaced Niall Dawkins in the visitors starting line up in the one change to the team which drew with Blyth Spartans at the start of the Bank Holiday weekend. Belper named former Matlock midfielder Steve Warne in their opening eleven with more ex Gladiators in Simon Harrison and Colin Marrison on their substitutes bench.
Matlock made the brighter start as Liam Needham’s 6th minute strike was deflected into goalkeeper James Martin’s chest and Stokes saw a shot which struck a defender on its way behind.
Then on 15 minutes came the penalty as Billy Bennett handled Gregory’s right wing centre but Martin, who had once conceded ten goals at Matlock in an FA Trophy tie in Bedworth’s colors, gained some personal satisfaction as he kept pout Holland’s spot kick low to his left.
Adam Yates nodded narrowly wide tom a corner three minutes later and it came aa a shock when the hots went ahead on 26 minutes as centre half EDRIDGE was on the ned of a right wing corner to put Belper in front.
That pain was increased for the Gladiators when ROB STEVENSON tucked away a neat finish following uncharacteristic hesitancy in the Matlock defence, a facetvthat would be prominent throughout the game.
Matlock needed a quick response desperately and got it when on the half hour HOLLAND buried a superb header from an equally impressive Stokes cross.
Garnett hooked a right wing cross over the bar almost immediately before forcing Kennedy into a fine save soon afterwards but three minutes after the resumption GARNETT scored into a vacant net, reacting quicker than anyone to a loose ball after Kennedy had blocked an initial strike.
But if Belper fans thought the game was won, they were left with egg firmly stuck to their faces.
After an initial quiet spell, Matlock cottoned on to the injustice of their deficit and Gregory sounded a warning shot with a twenty five yarder which flashed inches wide. That 64th minute strike was added to by Stokes eight minutes afterwards, Martin nicking the ball off the winger’s toes before on 76 minutes, Holland was an ace away of converting a Gregory centre.
Substitute Lavell white rolled a gentle effort against a post on 80 minutes following more good work by Holland but HOLLAND’s bullet header from eight yards from a Meade corner gave Matlock hope.
Then as the derby entered stoppage time STOKES smashed home the deserved equalizer, ripping his shirt off in front of the Matlock fans in ecstasy. The booking he received was a small price to pay, what a climax and what a deserved point for Matlock after seemingly looking dead and buried.
BELPER TOWN: 1 James Martin 2 Aaron Pride 3 Billy Bennett 4 Ian Ross, Regan Edridge 6 Chris Jones 7 Aaron Cole (15 Simon Harrison 59) 8 Steve Wane 9 Jon Froggatt (14 Mark Ward 81) 10 Evan Garnett (16 Colin Marrison 76) 11 Rob Stevenson Other subs: 12 Kieran Wells 17 Scott Low
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Jon Kennedy 2 Micky Harcourt 3 Joe Leesley 4 Corey Gregory 5 David Haggerty 6 Adam Yates 7 Jason Stokes 8 Josh Meade 9 Danny Holland 10 Leon Osborne (15 Lavell White 56) 11 Liam Needham Other subs: 12 Oscar Radford 14 Niall Dawkins 16 Jordan Snodin 17 Matty Leese
REFEREE: S Meredith (Mansfield) ATTENDANCE: 475 BEST GLADIATOR: Jason Stokes