Ashton United 2-0 Matlock Town
Good fortune seems to be deserting the Gladiators at a crucial stage in their battle to beat the drop, they certainly gave as good as they received at third placed Ashton, but some off target finishing, coupled with the bad luck, proved to be their undoing.
A 41st minute Julian Banton own goal was added to by a scruffy 89th minute strike from substitute Martin Pilkington to give the Robins a highly flattering win.
Josh Meade replaced Niall McManus in the one change from the team which brought home a point from Whitby on Wednesday with Micky Harcourt having to be content with a place on the bench alongside McManus as Grant Black continued at full back.
As expected, the hosts, needing the points to maintain a play off challenge and have an outside chance of catching leaders, FC United of Manchester, made a strong start.
Michael Oates eased past Banton to lob over the bar and then from a well struck Chris Baguley free kick, Jon Kennedy flew to his left to tip the ball away from danger.
Home full back Stephen Mason might have had a debut to forget when he clattered into Josh Meade and was fortunate to escape with only a yellow card. He later delivered a teasing cross which Muhammed Sabo headed out for a corner before Kennedy handled assuredly from another free kick played in dangerously by Baguley.
But there were signs of Matlock weathering the early storm and creating some pressure of their own and on the half hour they had the best chance of the half when Otis Khan, back in his home town, sprinted from the half way line only to curl his shot narrowly wide with only goalkeeper Paul Phillips to beat.
Kennedy fingertipped a chip from Martin Hill away to safety and punched away another Baguley free kick before the breakthrough came in an unexpected way as BANTON sliced a right wing corner into his own net.
Matlock’s response was instant with Khan firing narrowly wide from distance before half time came with Sabo going into referee Strain’s notebook for a foul on Dale Johnson.
An injury to Danny Holland saw McManus on for the second half and the substitute was soon in the thick of the action, narrowly failing to meet a good low ball across the box by Jamie McDonagh.
The Northern Irishman was at the centre of Matlock’s dominance of the second half, next turning smartly to see Phillips again save a shot from distance.
Matlock needed to make their pressure count, McManus snatching at a chance created for him by Ted Cribley before on 74 minutes came probable confirmation that it was not going to be Matlock’s day.
McDonagh’s shot struck the near post, bounced along the goal line to rebound off the other upright and out of the reach of McManus who would have had an easy tap in.
Phillips then held another strike from McDonagh before manager Mark Hume made a double switch, sending himself on as an auxiliary striker with Harcourt coming on for Scott Maxfield at the back.
The Ashton defence stuck to their task with a rugged determination to hold on to their lead and they received the bonus of a scrappy second goal as they broke forward for Brad Robindson to find Johnson, the ball dropping to PILKINGTON who squeezed his shot past Kennedy who looked to have been impeded.
So that was game over, Ashton had done the double over a Matlock side who returned home feeling hard done by, but knowing also that they need to capitalize when they are in the ascendancy.
It means a few more squeaky bum weeks before their fate for next season is confirmed.
ASHTON UNITED: 1 Paul Phillips 2 Stephen Mason 3 Greg Pearson, 4 Sam Wilson, 5 Jack Higgins, 6 Ashley Young 7 Martin Hill (15 Brad Robinson 66), 8 Gary Gee 9 Dale Johnson 10 Chris Baguley (12 Lee Rick 87) 11 Michael Oates (14 Martin Pilkington 66) Other subs: 16 Darcy O’Connor 17 Jack Sherratt
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Jon Kennedy 2 Grant Black 3 Scott Maxfield (14 Micky Harcourt 80) 4 Josh Meade (16 Mark Hume 80) 5 Muhammed Sabo 6 Julian Banton 7 Ted Cribley 8 Liam Needham 9 Jamie McDonagh 10 Danny Holland (12 Niall McManus 46) 11 Otis Khan
Other subs: 15 Liam Gaughan 17 Ryan Pugh
REFEREE: D Strain (Runcorn) ATTENDANCE: 194 BEST GLADIATOR: Jamie McDonagh