Two goals in the last few minutes salvaged a point for Matlock in Bank Holiday Monday’s local derby at Belper Town.
Jason Stokes scored a last-gasp equaliser to add to Danny Holland’s second headed goal of the game to earn Matlock a deserved point having been the better side in the second-half.
It had been a topsy-turvy clash with Holland failing to convert a 15th minute spot-kick which would have given him a hat-trick, then Belper replied incisively to net twice within 90 seconds through Regan Edridge and Rob Stevenson before Holland quickly scored his first goal.
A third goal for the Nailers from Evan Garnett looked to have put the match beyond the visitors, but a never-say-die attitude coupled with them looking the stronger side throughout the second period earned them their point as a second Holland header on 86 minutes was then followed by Stokes’ dramatic late intervention.
Matlock made the brighter start as Liam Needham’s sixth minute strike was deflected into goalkeeper James Martin’s chest and Stokes saw a shot which struck a defender on its way behind.
Then on 15 minutes came the penalty as Billy Bennett handled Corey Gregory’s right wing centre but Martin, who had once conceded ten goals at Matlock in an FA Trophy tie in Bedworth’s colours, gained some personal satisfaction as he kept pout Holland’s spot-kick low to his left.
Adam Yates nodded narrowly wide tom a corner three minutes later and it came as a shock when the hosts went ahead on 26 minutes as centre-half Edridge was on the end of a right wing corner to put Belper in front.
That pain was increased for the Gladiators when Stevenson tucked away a neat finish following uncharacteristic hesitancy in the Matlock defence, a facet that would be prominent throughout the game.
Matlock needed a quick response desperately and got it when on the half hour as Holland buried a superb header from an equally impressive Stokes cross.
Garnett hooked a right wing cross over the bar almost immediately before forcing Kennedy into a fine save soon afterwards but three minutes after the resumption Garnett scored into a vacant net, reacting quicker than anyone to a loose ball after Kennedy had blocked an initial strike.
But if Belper fans thought the game was won, they were left with egg firmly stuck to their faces.
After an initial quiet spell, Matlock cottoned on to the injustice of their deficit and Gregory sounded a warning shot with a 25 yarder which flashed inches wide.
That 64th minute strike was added to by Stokes eight minutes afterwards with Martin nicking the ball off the winger’s toes before on 76 minutes, Holland was an ace away of converting a Gregory centre.
Substitute Lavell White rolled a gentle effort against a post on 80 minutes following more good work by Holland but Holland’s bullet header from eight yards from a Stokes corner gave Matlock hope.
Then as the derby entered stoppage time Stokes smashed home the deserved equaliser, ripping his shirt off in front of the Matlock fans in ecstasy as players and supporters celebrated their dramatic late leveller after seemingly looking dead and buried.
Monday, August 25, 2014:
Belper: 1 James Martin 2 Aaron Pride 3 Billy Bennett 4 Ian Ross 5 Regan Edridge 6 Chris Jones 7 Aaron Cole (Simon Harrison 59) 8 Steve Warne 9 Jon Froggatt (Mark Ward 81) 10 Evan Garnett (Colin Marrison 76) 11 Rob Stevenson. Subs not used: Kieran Wells, Scott Low
Matlock: 1 Jon Kennedy 2 Micky Harcourt 3 Joe Leesley 4 Corey Gregory 5 David Haggerty 6 Adam Yates 7 Jason Stokes 8 Josh Meade 9 Danny Holland 10 Leon Osborne (Lavell White 56) 11 Liam Needham. Subs not used: Oscar Radford, Niall Dawkins, Jordan Snodin, Matty Leese
Att: 475 Ref: S Meredith (Mansfield)
Star Gladiator: Jason Stokes
Report by Ian Richardson