BARROW 3-2 MATLOCK TOWN
The glorious cup run may have come to an end, but Matlock left the Furness Building Society Stadium pitch with their heads held firmly high after giving their high riding Conference National Premiership hosts an almighty scare.
With twenty five minutes left another major shock was well and truly on as a Marcus Dinanga double had put the Gladiators two goals in front, only for Barrow to strike back devastatingly hard to net three goals in eight minutes to scrape through.
There was mixed emotions in the Matlock camp. The obvious one would be regret, had they managed to hold out another five or ten minutes, they could well have been celebrating their place in the last sixteen and banked a further �6,000 of prize money. Disappointment will be in there as well as nobody likes to lose, especially having been two goals in front.
But in the cold light of day must come a feeling of pride as not only did the Gladiators make full time players look very ordinary, at times Matlock were better. Once again every player in a blue shirt gave their all, and from a football purist’s viewpoint, there was only one side who tried to play football and entertain the 976 crowd, made up of 100 visiting fans and officials. Matlock’s fans certainly made themselves heard.
It was no surprise that Barrow played the way they did. Matlock have come up against their manager Paul Cox before, firstly at Eastwood Town and more recently, four years ago when the Gladiators knocked his Mansfield Town side out of the FA Trophy.
Barrow went long and direct, and in the end it worked for them, so Cox must take some credit for that.
That style did not suit former Matlock legend Ross Hannah though, given a rare start in the Bluebirds’ starting line up. Hannah had one strike at Phil Barnes in an even first half, but was mainly living on scraps and was brought off for top scorer Byron Harrison in the second period.
For Matlock, Michael Williams, Ted Cribley who was back at his last club, and Dinanga all returned but Jake Green, not completely fit, had to settle for a place on the bench, with captain Adam Yates operating at left back as Nico Degirolamo and Dwayne Wiley were given the central defensive spots.
Cribley had the first sniff at goal in the 5th minute, firing over from fifteen yards after Marc Newsham had knocked down an Adam Yates cross.
Richie Bennett fired off target for the hosts shortly afterwards but defences were generally in control. Newsham was leaning back as he volleyed a difficult chance from a Niall McManus cross over the bar on 12 minutes before Moussa Diara nodded a14th minute corner wide for Barrow.
But neither side looked too dangerous as the half progressed and Matlock had done a fine job in keeping their hosts, two divisions higher in the pyramid, at bay. Part one of the plan had been successfully achieved, now it was time to put part two into action and they did that magnificently.
Matlock took the game to Barrow and when Nick Anderton went in on Newsham from behind two minutes after the restart, DINANGA smashed the penalty clinically into the corner to put the visitors ahead.
Within a further ninety seconds, Williams met a cross from the right at the far post, and headed into the sidenetting. Matlock had their tails up now and when Cribley put McManus through to shoot past goalkeeper Jon Flatt, referee Treleaven had spotted a handball against McManus in the build up.
Barrow made their first change bringing on Jordan Williams for Lindon Meikle on 55 minutes but a minute later, the Bluebirds were staring defeat in the face as DINANGA cut in from the right to score with a powerpacked twenty two yarder. A marvellous effort!
Off came Hannah and for Matlock, Alex Pursehouse replaced Newsham.
The Barrow recovery began when BENNETT dived in to nod a cross from the left past Barnes in the 65th minute.
It gave them a lifeline and it was BENNETT again five minutes later, firing home the loose ball after a long throw had been flicked on from the left.
Then Matlock’s nightmare spell was completed in the 73rd minute when home skipper DANNY LIVESEY headed home from a Paul Turnbull corner.
Lesser teams than Matlock might have folded completely and conceded more but to their credit, Matlock swept forward again but could not find the finishing touch to earn what on the day would have been a deserved replay.
Flatt did well to claim a Cribley free kick which had seen Town custodian Barnes in the thick of things, before the former Bluebirds winger saw a shot from distance , plus a Dinanga header saved by the goalkeeper.
Barrow, quite simply, had got out of jail and if they go on to lift the Trophy in May, they will no doubt, look back on the huge scare Matlock gave them on the way.
Now Matlock must put their disappointment behind them and use it as a catalyst to ensure their season ends with some reward.
Who, though, would have dreamed of this at the start of the season?
BARROW: 40 Jon Flatt 19Euan Murray 3 Nick Anderton 5 Danny Livesey 6 Moussa Diarra 18 Liam Hughes (14 Harry Panayiotou 66) 17 Paul Turnbull 23 Akil Wright 9 Richie Bennett 10 Ross Hannah (20 Byron Harrison 61) 16 Lindon Meikle (11 Jordan Williams 55) Other subs: 21 Dan Rowe 25 Myles Anderson
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Phil Barnes 2 Liam Marsden 3 Adam Yates 4 Joe Doyle-Charles 5 Nico Degirolamo 6 Dwayne Wiley 7 Niall McManus 8 Michael williams 9 Marc Newsham (14 Alex Pursehouse 63) 10 Marcus Dinanga 11 Ted Cribley Other subs: 12 Jake Green 15 Mason Warren 16 Jamie Yates 17 Kevin Grocott
REFEREE: Dean Treleaven (Portsmouth) ATTENDANCE: 976 BEST GLADIATOR: Marcus Dinanga