Matlock looked to have taken a massive step towards safety as Wednesday night’s league clash at Whitby reached injury time.

They led through Jamie McDonagh’s fine solo effort on 35 minutes, and then came a gilt edged chance to make the score 2-0 as Otis Khan burst through on goal. He had only goalkeeper Shane Bland to beat but passed to the supporting Ted Cribley who rolled the ball home. Celebrations though were cut short as Cribley was flagged offside, but then came a nasty sting in the tail for the Gladiators as the ten men of Whitby hoofed the ball forward and Liam Shephard scrambled home a last gasp leveller.

So three points had been dramatically and clinically reduced to just one. “Why did Khan pass?” everyone asked in frustration as a great opportunity to further strengthen their survival hopes disappeared.

Manager Mark Hume put the sequence of events down to inexperience and said to apportion any blame to Khan would be unjust.

“To be fair to Otis he’d been brilliant in the game and Whitby couldn’t cope with him. He’s only young and when he gains more experience he’ll make the right choices more. He was being unselfish and on this occasion he simply took the wrong option but he’ll learn from it.”

Overall Hume was pleased with the performance.

“It became scrappy towards the end and as a team we could have made better choices towards the end of the match, like using our wide men with pace more. We went too long but for seventy five minutes it was the perfect performance.”

At least his words after Saturday’s home defeat by Workington appeared to have been heeded. For the second successive game, Matlock gave away a goal inside the opening three minutes and try as they might, they could not repair the damage against the promotion chasing Reds.

“The goal was unfortunate, as it was a bit of a mix up and Jon Kennedy has held his hands up. so it’s a shame. But in the opening fifteen minutes we hadn’t set off right and while over the ninety minutes I thought we were the better side, our bad start cost us. we need to ensure were at it from the start, everyone must be positive and do their job and that means winning their battles.”‘

After Tuesday and Wednesday’s games, the relegation battle in Hume’s words remains “massively tight” with just six points separating fifteenth placed Whitby from Frickley Athletic in twenty first spot.

Matlock, in sixteenth position, a point adrift of Whitby and having played two games more, now face a tough trip to third placed Ashton United on Saturday and a visit from their Tameside neighbours, Curzon Ashton seven days later.

“Footballing wise we don’t fear anyone, we can play some good attacking stuff. No disrespect to anyone, but as I’ve said before, I’m not bothered about anyone else, it’s what we do that matters.” Hume added.

Micky Harcourt missed the Whitby trip due to work commitments and was replaced by Grant Black. Harcourt should earn a recall against Ashton while Oscar Radford, who sat out both the Workington and Whitby matches with a damaged coccyx, will need a fitness check. Scott Maxfield is likely to continue to deputize if needed.

But popular Adam Yates will not feature. Yates has had to wait for his chance under Hume sure to a damaged hamstring when Hume was appointed and then the consistently good form of Muhammed Sabo and Julian Banton.

It was thought Yates may start at Whitby but on Monday he sliced the end of his finger off in an accident in the gym. The finger has been successfully repaired but Yates could be missing for at least a fortnight.

Ian Richardson

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