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REPORT: Gladiators exit FA Trophy with heads held high

Matlock Town put in an excellent, battling performance on Saturday afternoon but unfortunately it wasn’t enough as they lost to National League side Eastleigh 2-1 at the Silverlake Stadium in the FA Trophy Second Round.

The Gladiators did not give up after going 2-0 down and Marcus Marshall’s reply gave them hope but Matlock Town couldn’t quite find the equaliser to force a replay back in Derbyshire.

The Gladiators looked a little nervous in the opening ten minutes but managed to calm down and retain possession better afterwards. The first half took a while to kick into life. The first chance of any kind fell to Eastleigh in the 16th minute when Sam Smart shot from twenty yards out which forced a decent save from Jon Stewart.

Matlock had a huge chance though to take the lead in the 28th minute when Tomas Poole’s surging run took him into the penalty area. Poole turned and cut inside his last man and had only Ross Flitney in net to beat. Flitney saved Poole’s attempt but the rebound fell to a completely free Jordan Sinnott from twelve yards out. Sinnott really should have found the net from here but frustratingly he panicked at the gaping opportunity and his shot was blasted over the bar.

Matlock had another huge opportunity to take the lead in the 34th minute when Marcus Marshall went on a fantastic mazy run that beat three Eastleigh players. Marshall’s run took him inside the penalty area with just the keeper to beat but Marshall’s attempt to slot past Flitney just lacked a little conviction and the keeper was able to just tip Marshall’s attempt around the post. It was a huge shame for Marshall personally as it would have been an absolutely fantastic and memorable goal in such a huge game for the club.

Matlock looked to be heading into the half time interval on level pegging but in a huge blow they fell behind with virtually the last kick of the half. Smart’s attempt from ten yards out was well blocked and the ball fell to Cavaghn Miley just outside the edge of the penalty area. He chose placement over power and his attempt snuck in just inside the post and out of Stewart’s reach to give the clear favourites the lead.

The game looked to be over when Eastleigh then scored within the very first minute of the second half. A long ball was met by the impressive Lewis Beale who beat the last man for pace and he slotted the ball confidently past Jon Stewart to double Eastleigh’s advantage.

Eastleigh almost scored a third goal immediately afterwards when the ball ricocheted off Tom Bearwish after a corner kick but Stewart somehow managed to save the ball right on the goal line with his outstretched foot.

At this point, it looked like it was going to be a miserable second half to deal with for Matlock but to their credit they kept going and battled hard to get back into the match and came close to getting their reward.

In the 59th minute, Spencer Harris launched a powerful attempt at goal from 25 yards out. The stinging shot was saved by Flitney but he spilled it and only just retrieved the ball before Poole could latch onto a rebound.

Bailey Gooda then impressed a few minutes afterwards with an excellent block followed by a superb sliding tackle in the penalty area to deny Eastleigh a huge opportunity to go 3-0 up.

The Gladiators managed to halve the deficit in the 69th minute when Poole (whose work rate was fantastic all game) managed to draw the keeper in when he broke into the penalty area. With Flitney out of position, Poole laid a square pass to a completely free Marshall who tapped home from eight yards out for one of the easiest goals he’ll ever score in his career and for his eleventh goal of the season.

In the 74th minute, Eastleigh won a penalty after Gooda tripped Beale in the area. Scott Rendell took the penalty but it was a lack-lustre attempt and Stewart saved to keep the Gladiators in contention.

Five minutes later, Marshall met an in-swinging free kick and hooked an attempt in from close range but his attempt was straight at Flitney. If Marshall didn’t have to lean so much to hook the shot in that could very well have been Matlock’s equaliser.

Matlock’s final attempt to save the tie fell in the 89th minute when the Gladiators won a free kick from 25 yards out. The opportunity was crying out for substitute Piteu Crouz to take it but it was Sinnott who took the set piece and his effort slammed into the opposition wall and Chib Chilaka’s follow-up shot was well blocked.

The result meant it was Matlock’s fourth defeat in a row but it was an impressive performance against a team who play two divisions above them and the players walked off the pitch to a huge round of applause from the travelling Matlock supporters whose support was excellent all day.

Matlock Town: Stewart, Yates (C), Gordon, Dean, Harris, Gooda, Hinsley, Rea (Chilaka 75), Marshall, Sinnott, Poole (Crouz 72).

Unused Substitutes: Tague, Morris.

Attendance: 718


Steve Kittrick Quotes

“I thought for 99.9% of the match we played really well today. We could have been two up before they scored…so it could have been a different story but goals change games…fair play to the lads, we were 2-0 down, a lot of teams would have thrown the towel in but we had a go and we kept going and we kept going and they were hanging on at the back end…I thought we did really, really well and every man to a tee has done well and what I’ve said to them now is that if we can just some of that into our league games and show that desire like we’ve had today, then I think we’ll get ourselves out of that little bit of a rut that we’re in.”

“The club’s done it right, we came down yesterday, we prepared well, I thought there weren’t much in it at half time, if we’d have come in at 0-0 at half time, I think that would have been fair…we’ve got some quality players and if we have that, what I call it, ragger attitude, never say die attitude like we had today and then take it into the league games, we’ll get out of this lower than mid-table position that we’re in. I tell you what was tremendous today, all them fans that made the effort to come down here today, we never heard the Eastleigh fans, all we could hear was Matlock Town, so I’d like to thank every man, woman and child that’s come down and spent their hard-earned money to come down and support us today and I hope you’ve gone home and enjoyed what we’ve tried to do today…we’ve come to a Conference side and we’ve just been pipped to the post.”

“Dwayne’s (Wiley) a good player and he was missed…Jack (Rea) has been back in today and has done well…we may add a couple of players during the next week and we need to have a strong bench. Dan Bramall was not here today, he’s got tonsillitis. We’ve got a good squad, we’ve just got to get that winning mentality back and it’s hard.”

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