Matlock Town’s Northern Premier Division game at Grantham Town on Saturday ended in huge frustration as the game was abandoned after 60 minutes due to fog while the Gladiators were 2-1 up.
Matlock fell behind after 16 minutes but two wonderful goals soon afterwards from Piteu Crouz had put the Gladiators in control. However, the referee had no choice but to abandon the match in the second half and, in a bitter blow for the Gladiators, the game must now be replayed from scratch at a later date.
The first half was a pretty open affair. Matlock had a couple of speculative long-distance efforts very early on which didn’t trouble Grantham’s keeper before Grantham had the first big opportunity of the match when Dan Wallis came out well to block a close-range shot with his chest in the 12th minute.
The Gingerbreads took the lead in the 16th minute when a chip from the edge of the penalty area from Kieran Wells sailed over a stranded Wallis and the ball found itself rolling into the net.
The Gladiators responded well to this setback and remained positive just like in the previous match at Belper Town. Matlock equalised quickly in the 24th minute through a lovely 20 yard strike from Piteu Crouz. Grantham’s keeper Adnan Kanuric should still have done better when dealing with the shot as he managed to get a firm hand onto the strike. Unfortunately for the Gingerbreads, Kanuric somehow managed to tip the ball behind him for it to go over the line rather than around the post.
Just three minutes afterwards, Matlock were awarded a free-kick right on the edge of the area. Piteu Crouz stepped up and took a wonderful shot which sailed over the wall and right into the top corner to give the Gladiators a 2-1 lead.
Matlock played well for the remainder of the first half and were definitely in control of the match. Unfortunately for the Gladiators, it was at this point that the fog started to get heavier and began to affect the match.
The last notable moment of the first half was in the 41st minute when Charlie Ward was sent off for Grantham for a second bookable late challenge. This made it all the more frustrating for Matlock now that the game has to be replayed right from the beginning as the Gladiators were in full control at this point.
During the half time interval, the foggy conditions became even worse as the dark skies rolled in and there was concern that the game might not reach 90 minutes. As the second half began, it became very difficult to ascertain which were Matlock players and which were Grantham players on the far side of the pitch to where the main stand is and it became clear that the visibility issues were now game-threatening.
Matlock almost went 3-1 up just two minutes into the second half when Marcus Marshall came agonisingly close to connecting to a hard cross-shot from Chib Chilaka. Any sort of touch of Marshall would have surely extended their lead.
The Gingerbreads began to fight back though. In the 52nd minute, Dan Wallis made an excellent diving save from a powerful 25 yards shot. Just two minutes afterwards, Grantham thought they had equalised to make it 2-2 when a header from a right-wing delivery hit the back of the net but the assistant referee’s flag was up to rule for offside.
In the 59th minute, the referee called both assistant referees and all the players for both teams over for a discussion about the progression of this match. Piteu Crouz revealed after the game that the assistant referees told the referee that they were beginning to find it almost impossible to work out which player was for which team on the far end of the pitch and they were appearing more as silhouettes making offside calls very difficult to make. It was this comment that made up the referee’s mind and he decided to abandon the match after an hour gone in the match.
Matlock Town: Wallis, Yates (C), Gordon, Dean, Gooda, Wiley, Poole, Harris, Chilaka, Marshall, Crouz.
Unused Substitutes: Hinsley, Sinnott, Tague, Bramall, Morris.
Steve Kittrick's Thoughts
In his post-match interview, Steve Kittrick agreed with the referee’s decision even though it was a big blow for the team:
“It was very frustrating but I think it was the right decision. It was getting worse and I think his explanation that all he could see were silhouettes and not players or numbers…so I think he was right for safety reasons…the linesmen who are looking full across the pitch, is he offside, is he not offside, has he handled it, has he not? It makes it very, very difficult.”
Kittrick was then asked about the match having to be replayed from scratch at a later date:
“Yeah, it’s a bit frustrating…I thought though, let’s be positive, I thought we played really well in the first half. We were unlucky to be 1-0 down but I just thought we played well and it could have been more, I thought we played some good football.”
Kittrick was also asked about the changes he made for this match:
“We went to 4-4-2. We thought Pikachu (Piteu Crouz’s nickname) did well (in the last match), got a goal, got an assist and then he goes and scores two today. Chib up top, it was against his old club, and he’s strong and he’s got Marshy (Marcus Marshall) running behind. We just had to get organised in midfield. Jack Rea’s ill, Sinnott’s not at it at the moment, even though he’s a very good footballer and he might argue he wants some game time, but that’s just how it is in football. Luke Hinsley’s been off it as well, he’s had flu and Dan (Bramall) has had it as well…so we’ve had to move it around but they’ve done well. I thought we were commanding, passed it well, played in good areas. We changed the system but I thought we looked solid and organised.”
Kittrick was asked finally about the next match away to FC United of Manchester in the league next Saturday:
“They’re a good side, aren’t they, they’ve been doing well. It’ll be tough, there will be a big crowd, but we’ve got to go and be serious about getting back into those play-off positions. We’ve got to go and get something from them and today I thought we equipped ourselves very well. It would have been nice to have taken a win into that game but I just think, mentally, we’ve overcome that now and mentally we were strong today and in their minds they won that game and they’ve got to take that into next week.”