REPORT: Gladiators and Tigers share a point on an emotional day

Matlock Town drew 1-1 at home against Hyde United on Saturday afternoon to put an end to their losing streak in the league and to lift them clear of the relegation zone in Paul Phillips’s first game in charge of the Gladiators.

This match will live long in the memories of everyone who was there as the game was dominated by tributes to Jordan Sinnott who tragically passed away a week earlier. A minute’s applause took place before the start of the match and the match was also halted briefly in the 25th minute for another round of applause from the players, staff and supporters of both teams.

The Gladiators almost made the perfect start to the game when Piteu Crouz’s hopeful pass from the by-line trickled through the penalty area before finding a waiting Dan Bramall on the edge of the area. Bramall struck his shot firmly but the ball agonisingly flashed just wide of the post after only two minutes of the match had been played.

Hyde United took the lead in the 9th minute. A 30 yard free-kick from Liam Tongue was hammered on target forcing Jon Stewart into a save but the Gladiators keeper couldn’t hold onto the ball and in-form Tom Pratt was there to convert the rebound by quickly scooping the ball over the oncoming Stewart.

The Gladiators reacted well to this setback though and were easily the most dangerous team over the whole 90 minutes and can count themselves to be very unfortunate that they did not pick up the three points. Straight after the opening goal, Crouz found the target from a 25 yard free kick but it was a comfortable save for Lloyd Allinson to make.

Bramall then smashed a long range effort but the ball found itself going a long way over the bar. In the 23rd minute, the Gladiators had a glorious opportunity to equalise. The impressive Nathan Valentine flicked the ball unexpectedly back into the penalty area with his back facing the goal which caught the Tigers defence off guard. Crouz was able to take advantage and ran onto the ball with nobody around him. Unfortunately, the Cameroonian winger opted for power rather than composure and his volley from only ten-yards out sailed over the bar when his attempt really should have at least hit the target.

Spencer Harris then had an opportunity to equalise in the 31st minute when he won a header from a left wing corner. The header bounced off the turf before approaching the net which slowed the momentum of the ball and allowed a Hyde defender to awkwardly clear the ball away right on the goal line.

Two minutes later, skipper Adam Yates was perhaps fortunate to avoid a straight red card after a very late challenge which laid out one of the opposition. Most referees would have brandished a straight red card but Yates blew a sigh of relief when it was just a yellow that emerged from Mr Mackey’s pocket.

The Gladiators carried on their momentum into the second half and were easily the better team in the final 45 minutes. Matlock were given an early advantage when Kyle Brownhill was sent off in the 48th minute for blatantly tripping Crouz on the edge of the area preventing him from a clear run at goal. Brownhill had already been booked in the first half and the referee had no option but to dish out a second yellow and send Brownhill on his way for an early Matlock bath.

From the resulting free kick, Crouz picked himself back up and hammered his free-kick only to find the ball crash off the underside of the bar and fall infuriatingly just in front of the goal line before being cleared.

Matlock Town finally secured an equaliser in the 54th minute and it was Crouz who was at the heart of the action yet again. Crouz had a close-range shot blocked but was offered a second bite of the cherry and he bundled the ball into the net from around eight yards out sparking huge celebrations from the home supporters. It was a heartwarming moment for the club as the entire Matlock team celebrated the goal by running together towards the home dugout and stood with Crouz as he held aloft a Matlock shirt which said ‘Sinnott 25’ to the crowd.

The Gladiators continued to be the more dangerous looking team in the final third and came incredibly close to taking the lead in the 70th minute when Chib Chilaka struck from 20 yards out only to find his ambitious effort cannon off the cross bar.

A huge talking point and moment of controversy took place right at the very end of the game. A right wing delivery from Adam Yates blatantly struck the hand of a Hyde defender. The referee could not have been in a better position but inexplicably did not award an injury time penalty for the Gladiators to the absolute disbelief of pretty much everyone in the entire stadium. Even Hyde United’s manager David McGurk told Paul Phillips after the game that it should have been a penalty.

Despite the initial incredulity at this baffling decision which confirmed both teams would share the spoils, everyone knew the result wasn’t the most important thing on this day. The club has been through an enormously difficult week but everyone associated with the Gladiators could not have handled the circumstances with any more class, respect and dignity. It was a strange game to attend at times and whilst it was obviously very sad, the tributes before, during and after the game were incredible and uplifting.

Ultimately, Saturday wasn’t about trying to get three points. It was all about doing Jordan Sinnott proud; and absolutely everyone, from the players, staff, board, volunteers and the supporters emphatically did Jordan Sinnott proud.

Matlock Town: Stewart, Yates (c), Wiley, Dean, Harris, Gooda, Crouz, Valentine, Chilaka (Morris 90), Tague (Scrivens 76), Bramall (Poole 61).

Unused Substitutes: Gordon.

Attendance: 543


Paul Phillips Quotes

On how proud he was of the team’s performance:

“100%, it wasn’t about the football today, it was about remembering Jordan, making sure we did everything right like we have done all week, on the pitch I thought we showed great, great enthusiasm to go and win the game and I thought we did enough to win the game. When they scored, it seemed to gee us on a little bit and we seemed to settle down. I thought we did enough to win two games never mind one.”

On the penalty appeal at the end of the game:

“How do I approach that without getting in trouble? I thought it was a nailed on penalty…nobody knows the handball rule. In this day and age, the FA have messed about with it that much that we don’t know the handball rule. That would have been given nine times out of ten but it hasn’t been given today, I don’t know for what reason, but for me its hit his hand…if that isn’t a penalty, I don’t know what is.”

On his first impressions of the Matlock Town squad:

“This week’s events has in some ways actually brought us closer. Obviously we’ve not had much time together but as a group I can see how strong we are and I think it showed today in their performances. We’ve got to get out of the situation that the club is in and I’m going to work tirelessly to make sure we do that. For me, we’ve got to push on. We’re trying hard there to win the football match, we’ve put three forwards on at the end, we’ve not took a backwards step but we’ve got to make sure now we address it.”

On how the players have coped following last week’s tragic events and how much the supporters have helped:

“100%. Looking at the game today and looking at social media and how the players have conducted themselves, it’s been fantastic. I don’t think they could have dealt with it any better. What a proud group of lads we’ve got in there, they’ve conducted themselves in a way that the club can be proud of. The club have all pulled together as one…we now need to get out of this situation (in the league) and try and win a cup in the memory of Jordan.”

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