REPORT: Late equaliser takes the Gladiators to a replay

Matlock Town just missed out on a famous win over National League outfit Chorley as they drew 2-2 at the Proctor Cars Stadium in the FA Trophy First Round.

Goals from Spencer Harris and Luke Hinsley looked to have given the Gladiators a giant-killing victory but Josh O’Keefe and a late goal from Chris Holroyd broke Matlock’s hearts and they will now have to travel to Chorley this coming Tuesday night for the replay.

The first half was a surprisingly drab affair and at times felt more like watching a pre-season friendly. While there were very few chances, there was certainly nothing to suggest that Chorley were a team that play two tiers above Matlock Town.

The Gladiators equipped themselves well and more than matched Chorley in all aspects of the game. Steve Kittrick wouldn’t have been too concerned that Matlock didn’t have any clear-cut chances as they were still keeping themselves well in contention to find a way through. The only shot on target in the entire opening 45 minutes fell to Chorley in the 38th minute when Dan Wallis tipped over a long-range shot from Josh O’Keefe.

Thankfully, the second half was a lively affair. The Gladiators took the lead in the 47th minute when Spencer Harris got the decisive touch after an almighty goalmouth scramble following a corner kick.

In the 53rd minute, Chorley should have equalised when a free header from ten yards out found itself flashing wide of the post. Straight afterwards, Tomas Poole came very close to scoring for the second game in a row when his long-range effort only just missed the target.

In the 64th minute, Matlock doubled their lead thanks to a superb volley from Luke Hinsley following a lovely run and cross from Dan Bramall who came on as a substitute for Adam Yates. Hinsley’s excellent strike marked his sixth goal of the 2019/20 campaign. Chorley made it clear instantly though that the game was far from over when they replied almost instantly.

In similar fashion to Matlock’s first goal, midfielder Josh O’Keefe bundled the ball over the line after a goalmouth scramble following a corner kick. It certainly won’t be a contender for goal of the season but it was a huge lifeline for the Magpies and allowed them back into the game when all looked lost.

The final 25 minutes proved to be a big test of Matlock’s credentials against higher-level opposition and the Gladiators came agonisingly close to securing an excellent victory.

As expected,Chorley gained momentum and stared to attack with more urgency and a cutting edge. In the 77th minute, substitute and former Spireites forward Louis Dodds should have done better when he found space ten yards out and struck the ball hard only to find it flash wide of the post.

With just five minutes of normal time remaining and the game going from end-to-end, Chorley looked to have sealed their fate when Martin Smith picked up a second yellow card for a deliberate handball which prevented Dan Bramall from having a clear run at the keeper from 35 yards out.

However, Chorley found an equaliser just a minute later when substitute Chris Holroyd stabbed home from 12 yards out following a wayward shot from their midfield. It has to be said, Holroyd did look to be offside when he struck for home but the assistant referee’s flag remained unmoved and it was a bitter pill to swallow for the Gladiators.

It could have ended even worse for Matlock. Just a minute after the equaliser, Marcus Carver’s shot from 12 yards out only narrowly went wide of the post but the Gladiators held on for a 2-2 draw and will now head to Chorley for the replay to do it all over again this coming Tuesday evening.

Matlock Town: Wallis, Yates (C) (Bramall 59), Gordon, Dean, Gooda, Wiley, Hinsley, Harris, Marshall, Sinnott, Poole.

Unused Substitutes: Chilaka, Tague, Morris.

Attendance: 400


Steve Kittrick's Thoughts

Gladiators boss Steve Kittrick was delighted with his team’s performance:

“Outstanding, we had a game plan which worked, hit them on the counter and I think we’ve been very, very unlucky…we’ve got so many injuries, we’re a bit limited as to what we can put on but I thought it was a tremendous performance against a Conference side…I said to them, if you have a good performance, then fans, whatever the score is, as long as you’ve put 110% in, the fans will always be there for you and I thought we did that, we worked hard and we had the chances to get a couple more really.”

Kittrick was asked how he felt the team responded after conceding the first goal:

“Fatigue, tired…one or two things that happens as a player…I thought we could have dealt with the first goal better and the second goal better and then we’d be having a different conversation. But we’ve nothing to fear, we’ve got to go there now and play well and do what we’ve done tonight.”

Kittrick was then asked about the absences of Piteu Crouz and Jack Rea and also why Adam Yates went off in the second half:

“Jack hopefully (will be fully fit) next week and Piteu will probably train on Thursday but we’ll have to see. He would have come in today but he’s had diarrhoea and sickness as well as a pulled hamstring so we’ve kept him away from the club. We’ve got to find out how bad Yatesy is because he’ll be a big miss for us on Tuesday…his hamstring is tight and we’ll have to see how bad it is. We’ll assess it tomorrow.”

The manager was finally asked who he would like to face in the Second Round if Matlock Town knock out Chorley in the replay:

“Not bothered! As long as it’s down here, we’re alright!”

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