Matlock edged through to the last sixteen of the Doodson Sports League Cup with a narrow victory against First Division South play off chasing Carlton on Tuesday.
Just 82 fans turned out to see Adam Yates’ first goal of the season put the Gladiators in front on 12 minutes.
But the lead was soon wiped out as a clever individual effort from Wes Henry had the Nottingham club level before former Carlton favourite Massiah McDonald struck his first goal in four matches with fourteen minutes left.
Will Dennis was given a rare start at full back and Laurence Gaughan was also included at the heart of the back four which also saw Oscar Radford move to left back with Lee Featherstone cup tied. Joe Leesley was named in an attacking midfield role.
The Gladiators began well and Yates went close inside ninety seconds. Found by McDonald his low twenty yard shot skidded along the turf and was pushed aside by the diving Martin Kearney.
After the Millers had responded positively forcing two corners, Matlock broke at pace with McDonald and Leesley forcing the flag kick from which Yates lost his marker to head firmly home.
Carlton, who included former Gladiators Matt Varley and Ruben Wiggins-Thomas were lively going forward and they were back in the game after 17 minutes when Wes Henry tricked his way through the heart of Matlock’s rearguard in a weaving run before producing a low slide rule finish into the corner.
Dennis was proving to be a willing runner and after one penetrating dash, he set up Ashmore whose shot was held by Kearney, but there was a let off for Mark Atkins’ men when Ian Brown saw Jon Kennedy divert his shot across goal and Wiggins-Thomas was an ace away from reaching the loose ball.
Injuries then reared their head again for Matlock as Radford limped off with ankle trouble and during the half time interval, he was joined by Anthony Griffiths-Junior (hamstring) and Martin Foster with a bang on the calf.
Under 19 starlet James Travis came on for his debut and put in a tidy performance on the left of midfield.
Carlton looked to take advantage of these injury problems and for the opening quarter of an hour of the second period, they had the lion’s share of the play. The closest they came though was from a 51st minute free kick which ended with Varley’s header rebounding off Kennedy’s right hand post.
Matlock showed resolve and character and while it was not attractive to watch at times, their effort and determination could not be faulted., with captain James Lukic leading by example.
Then out of virtually nothing on 65 minutes, McDonald shot fiercely goalwards and Kearney arched his back to superbly fingertip the shot to safety.
Travis soon found out about the physical side of semi professional football when a crunching late tackle from Brown left him flat on the turf and the Carlton number nine in referee Law’s notebook. Soon afterwards Rob Darkin joined him for tripping McDonald.
Lukic sparked Matlock with a forceful burst from the back which was the prelude to the Gladiators winner. Shortly after Leesley’s foul on Daniel Fletcher produced the game’s third and final yellow card, Lukic charged down the centre, the ball eventually finding Ashmore whose cross was almost apologetically pushed past Kearney by McDonald. It took an age for the ball to go in for a really scruffy decider.
McDonald didn’t celebrate partly out of respect for his old club and possibly because of the fortune on his side, but it saved the unwelcome prospect of extra time.
Carlton huffed and puffed for a second equaliser, but never suggested they could get one.
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Jon Kennedy 2 Will Dennis 3 Oscar Radford (12 Micky Harcourt 40) 4 Martin Foster (15 James Travis 46) 5 Laurence Gaughan 6 James Lukic 7 Joe Leesley 8 James Ashmore 9 Massiah McDonald 10 Adam Yates 11 Anthony Griffiths-Junior (14 Bradley Grayson 46) Unused sub: 17 Nick Buxton. REF: G Law-Leicester ATTENDANCE: 82 STAR MAN: James Lukic