A BRACE from top scorer Lewis McMahon sandwiched a Massiah McDonald strike to ensure there was no Halloween horror show for Matlock in Wednesday’s FA Trophy replay staged at Belper’s Christ Church Meadow.
Over the two games Matlock deserved to progress, given their dominance of possession, but they will certainly need to learn from their main error of carelessly surrendering possession in the final third, a factor which prevented them from being safe in the tie much earlier.
Kane Richards was left out with McMahon replacing him, Matlock adopting a 4-3-3 approach as Joe Leesley and McDonald made up the attacking trio. Work commitments ruled out Martin Foster so Glyn Cotton was recalled in midfield.
Leesley, operating down the left, comfortably beat full back Tim Sanders on the flank in only the second minute but goalkeeper Dan Lloyd-Weston was able to gather the low ball with little difficulty.
Then a neat McMahon turn was instantly followed by a cracking 20-yard effort which narrowly cleared the bar.
But Matlock found themselves behind on 11 minutes as they poorly defended both the first and second ball in their penalty box and Peter Wright drove an angled shot low past Jon Kennedy.
Cotton had an effort charged down but Matlock failed to create anything of note with moves constantly breaking down through choosing the wrong option, over elaboration and inaccurate passing.
Kennedy pulled off a good stop from Wright in a rare Leek attack, but in the main it was a case of Leek absorbing the Gladiators pressure and looking for the quick, incisive break.
A tremendous 25-yarder from James Ashmore flashed inches past the post with Lloyd-Weston beaten on 36 minutes, a minute before McDonald frustrated everyone with wildly driven cross after he had left full back Ricky bridge for dead down the right flank.
Then Cotton slipped a neat pass towards Mcmahon whose shot was deflected wide, but the offside flag was already raised,
But Matlock went in for their half time cuppa on level terms as Dan Brown was lucky to escape a yellow card for a late challenge on McMahon, but a penalty was the outcome.
McMahon this time kept his nerve to power home from the spot with customary aplomb and put to bed his agony from 12 yards in the first game at the Reynolds Stadium.
Somehow Matlock cleared their lines as shots from Anthony Danylyk, tipped aside by Kennedy, and Sam Hall scrambled away on the line to ensure level pegging by the half time whistle.
Kennedy was asked to save again from hall 10 minutes after the restart, again following poor defending.
But that seemed to be the catalyst for Matlock to impose themselves once more, still though a faulty final ball let them down.
McDonald’s confidence suddenly rose as he beat a clutch of defenders in a mazy run on the right, Leek being grateful to hack his cross clear as McMahon and Leesley closed in.
McMahon did his best to bring down an awkwardly bouncing ball a yard inside the penalty box but was crowded out.
On some occasions Matlock would have been better pulling the trigger instead of being too precise.
Dan Shelley called Kennedy into action again, the Matlock custodian doing well to block his shot and soon afterwards Shelley’s 25-yarder whistled past Kennedy’s right hand upright.
But at long last Matlock found a series of slick passes as Leesley released McMahon on the left of the 18 yard box.
McMahon kept his cool to look up and spot McDonald with a simple low square ball, and the Massiah could not miss, prodding the ball in from point blank range to give the Gladiators a 73rd minute lead.
Smith shot off target after he had burst forward from deep but Leek’s hopes of saving the game evaporated with seven minutes left as McDonald and McMahon combined again.
McDonald chased what seemed to be a lost cause, but skipped around the stranded Lloyd-Weston. McDonald then returned McMahon’s earlier favour with a short pass which McMahon stroked into the vacant net.
There was a melee when substitute Karl Charlton booted the ball against Richards after fouling him and when order was restored the Leek man was booked.
The Staffordshire side forced a couple of late corners but The Gladiators held firm and the more accomplished side had won to earn the right to entertain Stalybridge Celtic in the next round.
MATLOCK: Jon Kennedy, Micky Harcourt, Phil Roe, Glyn Cotton (Kane Richards 70), Adam Yates, James Lukic, Gareth Davies, James Ashmore, Massiah McDonald, Lewis McMahon, Joe Leesley.
Subs not used: Bradley Grayson, Will Dennis, Laurence Gaughan, Nick Buxton.
Referee: D Plowright (Clipstone).
Star man: Lewis McMahon.