Updated: Apr 28
Matlock Town's promotion hopes came to an end on Tuesday evening as they were defeated 2-1 by Scarborough Athletic at The Flamingo Land Stadium in a pulsating Northern Premier League Premier Division play-off semi-final.
A wonder strike from Ashley Jackson in the 74th minute and a clever back-heeled effort from Luca Colville in the 83rd minute of the game secured a place in the play-off final for the Seadogs. Gladiators skipper Liam Hughes managed to grab a goal deep into injury time but it came too late for Matlock to take the tie into extra time.
The Derbyshire outfit almost got off to the dream start. A complete miskick from Mark Lees after only two minutes found Alex Wiles on the cusp of the penalty area. Wiles managed to beat an opponent before firing an effort in from 12 yards at an angle which saw the ball clip off the post and go out for a goal kick.
Scarborough came within inches of taking the lead in the 16th minute of the game. An excellent 25 yard free kick from Lewis Maloney looked sure to be going in but Gladiators goalkeeper Joe Young did superbly to acrobatically tip the ball onto the post before Matlock's defence eventually cleared the ball away from danger.
The Gladiators had a golden opportunity to break the deadlock just after the half hour mark when Liam Hughes's back post header was on the verge of silencing the home crowd before the ball was superbly cleared away just in front of the goal line by a Seadogs defender with the goalkeeper beaten.
The first half overall was a surprisingly open and stretched game of football considering the importance of the match and the high stakes on the line. Both teams performed very well in the opening 45 minutes but the second half would prove to be one way traffic as the Seadogs went up a couple of gears to which the Gladiators couldn't cope with.
The pressure really started to mount on Matlock's defence just before the hour mark. In the 59th minute of the game, a deflected 20 yard effort was well saved by Joe Young who palmed the ball away at full stretch. This pressure refused to let up for the remainder of the game.
Just two minutes afterwards, a heavily deflected 25 yard effort wrong-footed Young and the ball flashed marginally wide of the post. After 64 minutes played, Will Thornton's header from a whipped in free kick on the left flank also rolled marginally past the post to set everyone's hearts racing.
The deadlock was finally broken in the 74th minute and it needed an outstanding strike from full-back Ashley Jackson to finally pierce through the Gladiators' armour. Jackson was allowed time and space on the left flank to pick out a shot from 25 yards out. The strike was clean as a whistle and found enough of a sweet spot to beat Joe Young and find the back of the net to send the Scarborough fans wild in an incredible atmosphere. It was a goal that would have been fit to win any game.
To Scarborough's credit, the Seadogs did not sit back in order to protect their lead with only 15 minutes to go. With Paul Phillips's men on the ropes, the North Yorkshire outfit went in search of a knockout blow. Some heroic defending from Adam Yates denied Scarborough from doubling their lead with ten minutes to go. With the goal at Scarborough's mercy following a fierce effort which was palmed away by Young, Yates somehow managed to clear the rebound away on the goal line.
It didn't take much longer though for the game to be killed off. After 83 minutes, Luca Colville superbly back-heeled the ball into the net from 12 yards out inside a crowded penalty area. The volume was once again turned up to eleven as Scarborough knew they had sealed a play-off final place in front of a huge home crowd. It was fully deserved too after an outstanding second half performance in particular.
Matlock did manage a consolation goal deep into injury time when Liam Hughes's close range header following an excellent cross was bundled into the back of the net. However, this was virtually the last touch of the game. A minute later, the final whistle was blown to the cheers of an ecstatic home crowd and to mark the end of Matlock Town's valiant and hard-fought push for promotion.
Matlock Town team: Young, Yates, Kendall, Evans, Qualter, Lees, Byrne, Wiles (Lowe 61), Hughes (c), Uchegbulam (Abadaki 72), Chippendale (Hannah 84). Unused subs: Sharman, Daly.