REPORT: Matlock stay top of the league after last-gasp equaliser

The Gladiators staged a superb comeback on Tuesday evening against Grantham Town to rescue their unbeaten start to the season and retain their place at the top of the Northern Premier Division.

Goals from Chib Chilaka and Ryan Hall looked to have given the Gingerbreads all three points but an 87th minute own goal from James Berrett and a 94th minute effort from substitute Luke Hinsley secured a richly deserved point for Matlock.

Similarly to the away trip to Ashton United, the first half was a subdued, often scrappy event but the second half was a much livelier affair. Matlock had two chances to take the lead in the first half and both of those opportunities came along in the 10th minute.

Firstly, following a well-worked short corner routine, Luke Dean had a shot from twenty-two yards out which smacked off the post.

The ball then fell to Piteu Crouz from about ten yards out but Crouz’s calmly placed effort was cleared off the line with Grantham’s goalkeeper beaten.

It was the Gingerbreads though who took the lead in the 19th minute. A corner from the right wing was met by the head of Chib Chilaka from six yards out who beat Jon Stewart in the air. Stewart almost saved the effort but instead the ball was fumbled awkwardly over the line.

Aside from an effort outside the area which was well blocked with Stewart stranded after chasing a ball down on the left wing, there were no other clear-cut chances for either team in the opening 45 minutes.

Matlock grew in confidence as the second half progressed but somehow found themselves 2-0 down after 56 minutes.

Ryan Hall managed to beat Ben Gordon for pace when he was the last man and placed his effort to Stewart’s left and into the net with only the keeper to beat. From this point on in the match, Grantham sat back heavily and it was Matlock who was applying all the pressure.

In the 60th minute, Crouz came agonisingly close to scoring his second superb free kick of the season when his effort from 22 yards out cannoned off the cross bar.

Crouz then had an effort two minutes afterwards where his strike from just inside the penalty area curled wide of the post. In the 73rd minute, Marcus Marshall found lots of space to surge down the middle. He passed to an overlapping Dan Bramall who ran into the penalty area but his effort was blocked well by an onrushing Tom Nicholson in goal.

In the 75th minute, Crouz had another free kick which was well saved by Nicholson this time and in the 80th minute the Gladiators hit the woodwork for the third time when Dwayne Wiley’s header from a corner looped in the air and hit the post.

Matlock finally broke the deadlock somewhat fortuitously in the 87th minute when Marcus Marshall’s cross from just outside the penalty area took a huge deflection off Grantham’s James Berrett and the ball curled into the net to halve the deficit.

With just seconds remaining, Matlock were awarded a free kick in a dangerous position on the left wing. An excellent delivery into a sea of players was deftly poked home by substitute Luke Hinsley from around six yards out sparking wild celebrations from players, management and fans alike for a well-deserved rescued point.

Matlock Town: Stewart (c), Lacey, Gordon, Dean (Harris 66), Williamson, Wiley, Crouz (Sinnott 79), Rea, Marshall, Wright (Hinsley 66), Bramall.

Unused subs: Yates, Smith.

Attendance: 372

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