Ashton scored a disputed equaliser two minutes from time which saw Gladiators substitute Laurence Gaughan sent off to deny Matlock a second successive home league win on a Saturday.
Earlier Matlock had twice led from a Bradley Grayson penalty on seven minutes and an own goal from Craig Robinson on 84, with Thomas Moore scoring the Robins’ first equaliser from the spot on the hour.
The visitors second equaliser, creditted to substitute Dennis Sherriff, might also have own goal claims about it as Oscar Radford tried manfully to keep the ball out.
Matlock, without top scorer Lewis McMahon, began brightly with Anthony Griffiths-Junior partnering Massiah McDonald and Adam Yates being recalled to the midfield.Martin Foster shot too high as did Yates, following enterprising build up play through McDonald.
Scott Hogan was the Ashton danger man forcing Jon Kennedy into a full length diving save from twenty yards but it was Matlock who drew first blood when following a break down the right, Griffiths-Junior’s shot was handled by Craig Robinson and Grayson calmly converted low into the corner, beating goalkeeper Paul Phillips’ dive to his right.
After Moore drove over, Hogan again had Kennedy in action, once more from long range before the energetic Griffiths-Junior threatened again, firing at Phillips after neat approach play from Grayson. Griffiths-Junior had a fine game, linking well with McDonald, causing the Robins defence plenty of problems.
Micky Harcourt fired well over the bar after Griffiths-Junior, McDonald and Grayson had all played prominent parts in creating the chance and Matlock could so easily have doubled their lead in the 27th minute as McDonald met a Griffiths-junior cross only to see Phillips miraculously keep the ball out with his legs as the custodian appeared to go the wrong way.
McDonald volleyed into the net but offside had already been given before it was Hogan again worrying Matlock, shooting wide after Thomas Moore’s knock down.
Harcourt was somewhat harshly booked for a 33rd minute foul on winger Matty Kosylo before Moore followed him for a crude challenge on Yates. Referee Andrew Fox then irritated the crowd by totally ignoring another horrible Moore challenge, this time on James Ashmore, which should surely have seen the Ashton number eight dismissed.
The visitors then had Phillips to thank again in the 37th minute, the goalkeeper flying through the air to tip away an imaginitive and superb chipped shot from Grayson.
Hogan again tested Kennedy at the start of the second half, but equally Matlock came close to a second goal again when Ashmore and McDonald combined to feed Griffiths-Junior whose goalboundshot was deflected past the far post by a defender who knew little about it.
But Ashton were level when Moore converted the game’s second penalty, awarded when Phil Roe brought down Matty Barlow, just after he had superbly cleared a Barlow effort off the line.
Unfortunately for Griffiths-Junior he took a knock in a midfield tussle and was replaced by Joe Leesley with a quarter of the contest to go.
But Matlock continued to create chances as McDonald’s shot was deflected behind, Leesley got caught in two minds as his effort was neither a pass nor a shot and Ashmore directed his free kick straight at Phillips.
Kennedy though kept the Gladiators level with a fine 80th minute save from substitute Sherriff before the hosts broke forward and regained the lead. Grayson slipped a pass to McDonald on the left whose low centre was helped over the line by Robinson.
Kennedy pulled off another fine save from a Sherriff header and blocked the follow up from Kosylo but the equaliser came, ironically following a mistake from Phillips. Leesley hunted down a back pass and the goalkeeper made a hash of his clearance, fouling Leesley in the process. It could so easily have been a Matlock penalty but the visitors attacked atpace as Kosylo and Sherriff combined on the right.
Yates slipped at an inopportune moment and Sherriff’s shot from the right beat Kennedy with Radford unsuccessfully trying to hack clear.
Substitute Laurence Gaughan was sent off for his protests and the referee was heckled as he left the arena by Matlock fans clearly feeling their side had received rough treatment from the official.
MATLOCK TOWN: Kennedy, Harcourt, Roe, Foster (Gaughan 71), Radford, Lukic, Grayson, Ashmore, McDonald, Yates, Griffiths-Junior (Leesley 67) Subs not used: Dennis Buxton
Referee: A Fox (Coventry)
Star man: Anthony Griffiths-Junior