Matlock Town knocked out fellow NPL Premier Division outfit Grantham Town with a 1-0 victory on a wet Saturday afternoon to reach the FA Cup Third Qualifying Round.

It looked like the tie was going to be resolved by a nail-biting penalty shoot-out but substitute Callum Dolan had other ideas and bagged his first ever goal for the Gladiators in the 76th minute to send Matlock Town to within two victories away from the FA Cup First Round Proper.

The game was an extremely scrappy affair which wasn’t helped by some miserable weather conditions which the pitch did well to contain for the most part. The ball spent a lot of time in the air and Grantham’s game plan of containing Liam Hughes almost paid off with the Gladiators really struggling to produce any clear-cut chances.

It was a tough old first half for the Gladiators with Matlock struggling to impose themselves. In fact, their best effort arrived just four minutes into the game when Spencer Harris’s twenty-five yard effort flashed well wide of the post.

The Gingerbreads did have two great chances to take the lead in the opening forty-five minutes. In the twenty-fourth minute, central midfielder Ben Middleton really should have done better with a header from twelve yards out. Middleton made a surging run into the penalty area and probably had more space and time than he realised when he met a great cross from the right wing. With the defence breached, Middleton should have at least hit the target but his header flashed wide of the post.

In the 33rd minute, Remaye Campbell should have done better when he misdirected his attempt from just inside the penalty area after some good work down the left wing from the Gingerbreads. Matlock’s only other attempt of note in the first half was when Reece Kendall attempted to flick the ball home from close range following an Alex Byrne cross but his effort went well wide.

The second half continued in the same vein as the first in a match that can definitely be described as not one for the purists. In fact, it threatened to be even less eventful than the first until Paul Phillips decided on a couple of inspired substitutions. The introductions of Danny Greenfield and Callum Dolan finally gave the Gladiators an extra dimension to their play in the final third and Matlock Town were just able to take advantage of this before a dreaded penalty shoot-out would have to take place to decide matters.

In the 74th minute, Danny Greenfield managed Matlock’s first shot on target in the afternoon when he managed to find time and space just inside the penalty area and struck the ball hard which forced Jan Budtz into a decent save.

Matlock finally broke the deadlock though just two minutes afterwards thanks to an impressive link-up between both substitutes. Danny Greenfield beat his man on the right wing and, instead of crossing the ball into the penalty area straight away, the loan signing from Gateshead smartly cut the ball back and passed the ball into the area towards the oncoming Callum Dolan. From twelve yards out and with nobody close to him, Dolan confidently slotted the ball past Jan Budtz and into the back of the net sparking wild celebrations in the dug-out area.

As expected, Matlock had to soak up a lot of pressure in the final ten minutes but the defence and Shaun Rowley passed the test with flying colours. Grantham managed one shot on target right at the very end of the game which Rowley saved well from.

Very shortly after that, the referee blew the final whistle and the Gladiators booked their place in the draw for the FA Cup Third Qualifying Round which which takes place on Monday at 1pm. Matlock’s victory also means that the Gladiators are now unbeaten in their last four games.

Matlock Town team: Rowley, Yates, Kendall, Egerton, Qualter, Lees, Byrne (Hull 83), Harris (Greenfield 59), Hughes (c), Abadaki (Dolan 64), Walker. Unused subs: Bond, Johnson, Stewart, King.

Attendance: 349

Dave Wild Quotes

“I think it was a really scrappy game from both teams. In all fairness, we sort of knew that was going to be the case. It was quite clear to see that they had a game plan to nullify our presence up top in Liam Hughes which I think they did really well to be fair to them…we had to tough it out for large parts of this game…I’ve said to them just now in the changing room, we had to be tough today and we had to put our bodies on the line and we had to be dogged. That never-say-die and hard-working attitude is really seeping through our squad and that’s really pleasing to see. We’re really pleased tonight.”

“It doesn’t really matter how you win in cup football – you just need to get through to the next round…all everyone is thinking now is who will we draw in the next round. The message at half time today was just to stay in the game. To win 1-0 away from home at what is a strange playing venue was all that mattered.”

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