Matlock boss Mark Atkins seethed with anger after Derbyshire Senior Cup Final victory was dramatically snatched away from his side at Chesterfield’s Pro-Act Stadium on Tuesday night.
With just two of the statutory ninety minutes remaining, Matlock had one hand on the trophy following a Lewis McMahon header in the 67th minute, his 24th goal of the season.
But then a tremendous twenty five yarder from Robins substitute James Reed levelled things up before controversy reigned when Ilkeston were awarded a penalty in stoppage time.
Atkins held his hands up to commend the equaliser, but launched a scathing attack on Belper referee Mark Sutton for awarding the spot kick.
“It was definitely not a penalty” Atkins rapped after seeing his man of the match centre half Adam Yates cast in the role of fall guy.
“Yatesy was quite clearly pushed in the back as he went up for the ball and the ball’s hit his hand. It was a foul the other way and a very simple decision for the referee to make. But officials at this level don’t seem to be bothered, he’s done us out of a cup final and the most disappointing and frustrating thing is that when I went to see him afterwards to ask why he’d given it, he wouldn’t tell me which goes against everything he said in the pre-match chat.”
It was Reed who converted the spot-kick to complete the turnaround and deny Matlock a second Senior Cup Final triumph under Atkins’ stewardship. The Gladiators beat Belper Town 2-0 in the 2010 final at Pride Park.
That late drama leaves Matlock without silverware and following a disappointing league campaign, littered with injuries almost continuously from day one, they look as though they will finish in 17th spot, even taking into account Thursday night’s final home match with Worksop Town and and Saturday’s last day trip to Kendal Town.
Atkins praised both his players and the supporters for their efforts on Tuesday.
“It was an excellent performance, we were the better side by far and it was probably the best we’ve played for some time. We had four opportunities to go in front in the first half alone. Nick Buxton’s had one save to make from the header in the second half. If I’ve got one criticism it’s that we sat back once we scored and it allowed them to put balls into our box. But generally I was pleased with the performance and I just hope the referee can sleep after that decision. That game sums our season up, we again had no luck to enable us to see it through and I feel for the lads and the fans who were magnificent with their support.”
Captain James Lukic cracked ribs and missed the final and last Saturday’s 1-1 league draw at home to Ilkeston who again scored late on to deny Matlock a win. McMahon had scored in that game also, a magnificent effort over his shoulder to give the hosts a 12th minute lead.
Atkins is likely to utilise all of his squad in the final two games with Lukic not included.
Matlock’s Presentation Evening takes place in their Social Club on Friday May 10 starting at 7.30 pm. Admission is free and includes a buffet with disco.