REPORT: Gladiators squeeze through to second round of Integro League Cup

Updated: Nov 28, 2019

Matlock Town knocked out local Derbyshire rivals Belper Town 6-5 on penalties after a hard-fought and entertaining 2-2 draw after 90 minutes in the first round of the Integro League Cup.

The Gladiators found themselves two goals down at half time but staged an impressive comeback in the second half before Dan Wallis became the hero of the night after saving the key penalty in a tense penalty shoot-out.

The Integro League Cup isn’t widely regarded as a competition that many teams prioritise over the course of a season but Matlock and Belper did the Northern Premier League credit with a very keenly-contested match with both teams very much looking for the victory.

It looked like the Gladiators were going to fall at the first hurdle in this competition as the Nailers punished the Gladiators with some clinical finishing in the first half. It was a quiet first quarter of the match with Matlock dominating possession but finding it difficult to break through the Nailers defence.

The first big chance fell to Matlock via an unlikely source when Dwayne Wiley of all people went on a glorious 60 yard run deep into the opposition half. Wiley played a smart one-two with Luke Hinsley and found himself ten yards out with just the keeper to beat. Wiley struck the ball firmly but Ryan Musslewhite just managed to tip the ball around the post.

Four minutes later, Matlock came even closer to taking the lead when Piteu Crouz managed to round Musslewhite and shoot on target from an awkward angle but Riece Bartram made a superb last-ditch goal-line clearance to prevent the Gladiators from going in front.

Despite those chances, it was Belper who took the lead in the 30th minute. Danny Gordon found himself one on one with Dan Wallis after easily beating the last defender and Gordon confidently struck the ball past the new Matlock signing and into the back of the net.

Ten minutes later, the Nailers went 2-0 up when George Milner beat the offside trap and had all the time in the world to beat the oncoming Wallis in similar fashion to how the first goal happened. Luke Hinsley thought he had given Matlock a lifeline on the stroke of half time but his 12-yard shot was ruled out for offside.

The second half was a pulsating affair and Matlock showed great character to get back into the match. Marcus Marshall came on for Jordan Sinnott at half time and immediately gave the Gladiators more attacking threat and Belper’s defence started appearing more vulnerable as the match wore on.

In the 60th minute, Piteu Crouz halved the deficit with a lovely strike from 20-yards out which went in off the post for his second goal of the season.

Straight after the goal, Chib Chilaka was introduced to the game as he replaced Luke Hinsley and the Nigerian forward made an instant impact on the game. In the 64th minute, Chilaka fired home from close range in a crowded penalty area after a low left wing cross from the by-line. All of a sudden, Matlock were now level with Belper thanks to the substitutions that were made.

Incredibly, Matlock came extremely close to taking the lead just two minutes after equalising. A stinging shot from Spencer Harris from twelve yards out could only be parried by Ryan Musslewhite. The ball fell to an oncoming Piteu Crouz but he was a little too eager with the rebound as his shot from eight yards out was blazed over the bar when he should have done better.

The game became extremely stretched from this point onwards with both teams trying everything they could to win the game without it going to penalties. In the 82nd minute, Nathan Curtis probably should have done better with a glancing header when he was free inside the penalty area for the Nailers.

In the 86th minute, Piteu Crouz found himself with space inside the penalty area after a corner and shot from twelve yards out which forced a good save in the corner from Musslewhite.

An injury time goalmouth scramble almost resulted in a last-ditch winner for Matlock before substitute Layton Swaine’s 20-yard effort whistled just inches wide of the post with the last kick of the game for Belper. With the game level at 2-2 after 90 minutes, the two teams went to a penalty shoot-out.

The first three penalties were converted before Louis Wardle blasted his effort miles over the bar for Belper.

After that, each penalty was scored with confidence up till the point when Chib Chilaka had the opportunity to win the tie for Matlock. Chilaka’s effort lacked conviction and was easily saved by Musslewhite and the shoot-out progressed to a sudden death stage.

With the score at 6-5 after Adam Yates’s excellent conversion, Nathan Curtis needed to score to keep Belper in the tie. Curtis struck confidently to his left but Dan Wallis made an excellent save to send Matlock Town through to the second round of the Integro League Cup after a very entertaining cup tie.

Matlock Town: Wallis, Yates (C), Gordon, Dean, Gooda, Wiley, Poole (Bramall 77), Harris, Hinsley (Chilaka 62), Sinnott (Marshall 46), Crouz. Unused subs: Tague, Morris.

Attendance: 275

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