SUTTON COLDFIELD TOWN 2-2 MATLOCK TOWN
Matlock edged even closer to safety with a fully deserved point at Coles Lane which could so easily have been turned into a three point haul with their strong finish to the contest.
Manager Mark Hume picked a side he thought best to suit the 3G surface and his intuition was justified with a fine performance as Matlock played some intelligent and attractive football. There was movement and pace throughout the side making the Gladiators a dangerous attacking unit, they certainly did not look like a side scrambling their way of relegation trouble.
Both sides made bright starts with Niall McManus shooting high over the bar when well placed after a 3rd minute move down the right when a Charlie Dawes cross was only partially cleared.
Sutton responded with firstly Zak Lilley missing a Jean Michel-Gueyes centre and then Luke Rodgers firing too high and then shortly afterwards Danny O’Callaghan shot wide at the far post after a cross from the right.
A long period of inactivity in the goalmouths ended with two goals in a minute.
The visitors struck first from a 32nd minute Craig Nelthorpe corner from the left which Micky Harcourt helped on to Ted Cribley who set up DAWES to drill a firm shot past James Wren.
Matlock’s joy was extremely shortlived as a crossfield pass found Michel-Gueyes on the left whose low cross was converted by RODGERS.
Wren had to scramble backwards to claw away a teasing Ben Algar cross before there was an escape for Matlock on the stroke of half time. Willis made a fine initial stop from Rodgers but the ball broke free only for Adam Yates to get back to superbly clear Rodgers’ follow up off the line. In between Jordan Ball was left motionless thanks to a stray elbow from Scott Lycett which was missed by the officials.
Matlock regained the lead just four minutes after the resumption as a pin point through pass from McManus released BALL who clinically tucked away his first Gladiators goal with a calm finish past Wren.
The goal saw Matlock’s confidence visibly increase and they were now looking the better side.
Liam Needham, who again put in a good midfield shift, found himself in space only to take the wrong option. Instead of shooting he passed to Cribley whose hanging centre was caught by Wren.
Then on 58 minutes came a heart in the mouth moment for Wren and Sutton as Cribley shot goalwards, Wren only managing to punch the ball into the air but backwards and he had to desperately regain his ground before grabbing the ball as it looked destined to cross the line.
Then came a Rodgers booking for one of many fouls, this one on Harcourt, and later in the contest he should really have been sent off for a second time against Matlock this season for a reckless late challenge on Willis. Referee Stretton contented himself by calling over captain Matthew Jackson and issuing a stern telling off.
Sutton levelled on 71 minutes out of the blue and it was down to a Willis error. Cameron Gayle’s shot from distance looked to bringing a save from the goalkeeper but instead of tipping it upwards over the bar, his last touch was only enough to help the shot on its way into the net.
It could have led to a nervous last twenty minutes or so and Willis redeemed himself with a fine point blank save from O’Callaghan in the 79th minute who was free eight yards from goal after a neat combination with Rodgers.
But then the rest of the game belonged to Matlock and substitute Joel Purkiss was twice tremendously unfortunate not to send Matlock home with a win that would have confirmed their place in the top tier for next season.
He turned on a pass from Jason Paling to volley goalwards in his own typical, spectacular style only for Wren to fly to his right and tip clear, the ball then being scrambled away before deep into stoppage time, Purkiss stretched to nod a Nelthorpe cross against the bar.
Matlock though, had to settle for a second 2-2 draw with the Royals this season, but it had been a good performance, begging the question as to why they could not have shown the same intent in most of the games during their disasterous losing run.
SUTTON COLDFIELD TOWN: 1 James Wren 2 Cameron Gayle 3 Matthew Jackson 4 Aaron Forde 5 Joel Kettle 6 Scott Lycett 7 Ryan Edmunds ( 12 Andre Gonzales 62) 8 Danny O’Callaghan 9 Luke Rodgers 10 Zak Lilley (14 Tom Turton 69) 11 Jean Michel-Gueyes
Other subs: Brooks, Beresford, Gwilliams
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 George Willis 2 Jason Paling 3 Ben Algar 4 Ted Cribley 5 Adam Yates 6 Micky Harcourt 7 Charlie Dawes 8 Liam Needham 9 Niall McManus 10 Jordan Ball (14 Joel Purkiss 77) 11 Craig Nelthorpe Other subs: 12 Laurie Wilson 15 Gaughan 16 Jack Siddall 17 Tom Burgin
REFEREE: Guy Stretton (Leicester) ATTENDANCE: 192 BEST GLADIATOR: Ted Cribley