Shaw Lane Aquaforce 2-2 Matlock Town
Matlock battled superbly to put the previous week’s disappointing show at Ossett Albion firmly behind them against the big spending First Division South newcomers.
They led twice with the Barnsley hosts second equalizer coming just five minutes from time and there was enough in the performance to suggest the Gladiators will be competitive in what looks to be a tough Premier Division this season.
Lewis King did quell to block a fierce 3rd minute strike from Adam Priestley but apart from a couple of shots from Priestley and Lee Bennett which passed comfortably wide, King’s goal was not threatened again before the interval.
The hosts were guilty of an over physical approach and a terrible challenge by Steve Istead on Ted Cribley saw the referee brandish a yellow card, in a league game it would most probably have been red.
Then on 35 minutes Matlock came closest to the opening goal when Niall McManus fed Danny Holland whose shot beat goalkeeper Ian Deakin but was cleared off the line by Sam Denton’s last gasp interception. From the corner which followed Oscar Radford drove firmly over the bar from the edge of the penalty box.
But Matlock found the target with a minute of the half remaining as poor Ducks defending was punished by JOEL PURKISS who calmly rolled a low shot beyond Deakin.
The lead did not last long. Andrew Fox had already driven narrowly wide before on 49 minutes from a right wing corner, DENTON powered home a firm header.
Encouragingly the Matlock response was a positive one. Ted Cribley sprinted down the right to cross low towards Holland who went down under Denton’s challenge, the referee allowing play to continue.
Their next meaningful attack on 65 minutes saw the lead regained as McMANUS took full advantage of indecision between the Shaw Lane central defenders and Deakin. McManus kept his head to sidestep the goalkeeper and score with a precision finish into an empty net.
It nearly got better for the visitors as Deakin managed to drop on a Purkiss shot before an exquisite turn from Cribley opened the Ducks up again only for Deakin to hold the midfielder’s strike.
Shaw Lane finished the game strongly, levelling when substitute Gavin Allott nodded down to BENNETT whose crisply struck first time shot flew past King.
Then King pulled off a fine diving save from Allott and Ben Algar cleared off the line from Denton as more shots rained in on the Gladiators goal.
But Matlock stood firm and resolute, the hallmark of their performance, to earn a deserved draw.
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Lewis King 2 Micky Harcourt (14 Josh Meade 69) 3 Ben Algar 4 Nicky Travis 5 Adam Yates 6 Oscar Radford 7 Ted Cribley 8 Liam Gaughan 9 Joel Purkiss (12 Scott Maxfield 90) 10 Danny Holland 11 Niall McManus