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HONOURS EVEN AS GLADIATORS DRAW WITH THE DABBERS


Matlock Town were held to a frustrating goalless draw at home against Nantwich Town on Saturday afternoon as their hopes of securing a play-offs spot in the Northern Premier League Premier Division must wait a little longer. It was yet another case of the Gladiators defence holding strong but their attack not proving to be clinical enough. Skipper Liam Hughes saw two efforts agonisingly hit the woodwork in what was remarkably Matlock's fourth goalless draw in their last five games. The first half was a lively and open affair and there was no doubt that Matlock should have headed into the interval with the lead. After just four minutes played, Callum Chippendale managed a shot on target from the edge of the penalty area which forced Dabbers goalkeeper Matthew Gould into action. Four minutes later, Luke Daly produced an excellent long-range effort which resulted in Gould expertly tipping the ball over the bar at full stretch. The Gladiators came extremely close to being rewarded for their bright start after 11 minutes played when Liam Hughes's hooked effort from 12 yards out cannoned off the cross bar and out of play for a goal kick. Controversy ensued when the match approached the midway point of the first half. A Nantwich defender appeared to elbow Jesurun Uchegbulam in the face right on the edge of the penalty area but, bafflingly, a free kick was given instead and only a booking was the punishment for Nantwich's Joshua Langley. The Gladiators should really have taken the lead in the 28th minute when an excellent corner from Alex Byrne found an unmarked Ryan Qualter in the box but his free header flashed over the bar when he should have done better. The Dabbers came close to taking the lead five minutes before the interval with their first real attack on goal. A heavily deflected 20 yard effort looked sure to be bulging the back of the net but stand-by goalkeeper Paul Cooper (who started in place of the unavailable Joe Young) produced an outstanding one-handed save to tip the ball onto the post before the Gladiators defence cleared the ball away from danger. There was still time for one more agonising chance for Matlock Town that they couldn't take before heading into the interval. In the 43rd minute, an excellent Alex Byrne corner found Liam Hughes and his looping header from 12 yards out ended up coming back off the post. The ball fell to defender Jamie Sharman but, with a crowd of opponents around him, his effort was lashed off target.






The second half was a much scrappier affair and the Gladiators looked very leggy and did not come close to producing the same performance as they did for the first 45 minutes. The second 45 minutes only really saw one clear-cut opportunity and that fell for Nantwich. In the 59th minute, a 15 yard effort rolled across the turf and squeaked just wide of the post to Paul Cooper's relief. With tiring legs, the Gladiators played way more directly in the second half in comparison to the first 45 minutes. Their best efforts to break the deadlock came through Osebi Abadaki's tame 25 yard effort on target in the 77th minute and Reece Kendall's 87th minute header from inside the area which sailed comfortably over the bar. The final whistle marked yet another Matlock Town game where the defences reigned supreme. Bizarrely, only one goal has been scored by any team in the last five matches involving Matlock Town. The draw means that the Gladiators remain third in the NPL Premier Division table and sit five points clear of sixth-placed Bamber Bridge with just two games remaining to secure a play-offs place. Matlock Town team: Cooper, Sharman, Kendall, Evans, Qualter, Lees, Byrne, Chippendale (Abadaki 54), Hughes (c), Daly (Greenfield 54), Uchegbulam (Hannah 80). Unused subs: Wiles, Webb-Foster. Attendance: 633

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