Matlock Town 4-3 Lancaster City
Harry Vince’s superbly struck free kick five minutes into stoppage time settled a thriller in Matlock’s favour after they had been twice two goals ahead.
The 18 years old midfielder on loan from Boston United curled a pacy shot into the top corner past the despairing dive of City goalkeeper Josh Powell to earn Matlock three precious points and their first league double of the campaign having won 2-1 at the Giant Axe two months earlier
But it was another man with Boston connections that got the ball rolling and added much more venom to the Gladiators attack. Lee Bennett, formerly with Shaw Lane and who had scored for the Barnsley side in the televised FA Cup defeat by Mansfield Town in November, was signed on a dual registration agreement with Boston on Friday and he could not have wished for a better start with the Gladiators.
The 13th minute proved to be lucky for him as Phil Barnes’ gigantic clearance reached BENNETT who with his back to goal hooked his fifteen yard shot beyond Powell.
Bennett also brought out the best in top scorer Shaun Harrad as Matlock looked a potent threat going forward. At this stage they were also defending with confidence, Micky Harcourt being a surprise inclusion at centre half with Adam Yates bravely slotting in at right back despite his broken nose.
Matlock looked to add to their lead with Harrad having a header tipped over by Powell but the wet dark day though became brighter for Town when they doubled their advantage on 28 minutes, Vince floating in a free kick from the right for HARRAD to net with a majestic cushioned header.
Soon afterwards the enegetic Vince drove forward and went down in the box under challenge from Ben Hudson, Bennett taking over but being forced wide before firing into the sidenetting from an acute angle.
City found their way into the contest in highly fortuitous circumstances in the 34th minute. Play was allowed to continue when Yates was pulled down in the box, the visitors keeping up the momentum as SAM BAILEY’s shot took a massive deflection off Tom Kilifin to bemuse Barnes and bounce in off a post.
That goal gave Lancaster heart and Matlock were pushed back into a defensive mode at the start of the second half.
Barnes did well to tip a header from Billy Akrigg over the bar four minutes in and when Matlock looked to be at sixes and sevens in defence they escaped when Kilifin shot wide. Barnes would then pull off a fine blocking save from Craig Winder who had broke away on the right. Akrigg drove into the sidenetting as Matlock held on.
Matlock though had their chances also when Bennett cut out Powell’s clearance and rolled his shot towards goal, Hudson getting back to clear. Wallace curled a free kick at Powell before the best opportunity came in the 75th minute. Substitute Jamie Jackson’s excellent defence splitting pass found Bennett who remained composed to feed Harrad but Powell rescued City with a fine save from Harrad’s low shot.
The game’s goal tally was dramatically doubled in the closing stages.
The Gladiators looked to be firmly in the driving seat again when Bennett held up play intelligently to feed the overlapping HARRAD who tucked his shot under Powell to restore the two goal lead in the 80th minute.
But by the 87th minute Lancaster had levelled through two of their substitutes. Ninety seconds after going 3-1 down, they pulled a goal back, with their best player, Sam Bailey, again at the heart of the move.
A neat one two on the right ended with Bailey’s cross being forced home from six yards by PAUL JARVIS. Then with the Dolly Blues surging forward again, CRAIG CARNEY’s effort from a corner on the left was adjudged to have crossed the line and now, Matlock were suddenly in danger of losing after being in a commanding position just seven minutes earlier.
But they found a touch more energy on the tiring pitch to snatch all three points when Jackson was brought down and VINCE stole the headlines with his delicious free kick.
It all turned out okay but not without some hairy moments on the way. The 311 fans had certainly had their money’s worth.
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Phil Barnes 2 Micky Harcourt 3 Jan Yeomans 4 Harry Vince 5 Adam Yates 6 Dwayne Wiley 7 Kieran Wallace 8 Michael Williams 9 Shaun Harrad 10 Lee Bennett 11 Ted Cribley (12 Jamie Jackson 67) Other subs: 14 Harry Limb 15 Matty Templeton 16 Zak Brunt 17 Jordan Pierrepont
LANCASTER CITY: 1 Josh Powell 2 Rob Henry 3 Paul Dugdale 4 Simon Wills 5 Glenn Steel 6 Ben Hudson 7 Ryan Winder (16 Paul Jarvis 77) 8 Billy Akrigg (14 Craig Carney 85) 9 Mamoden Djabi (17 Hannu Tam 67) 10 Tom Kilifin 11 Sam Bailey Other subs: 12 Charlie Bailey 15 Leon Creech
REFEREE: Bradley Hall (Stockport) ATTENDANCE: 311 BEST GLADIATOR: Lee Bennett