Resilience was the name of the game for battling Matlock who held the Reds to a second scoreless draw of the season between the two clubs at the Autoworld Arena on Tuesday.
The remnants of Hurricane Gonzalo had thankfully passed but conditions were still horrible, so both sets of players deserve the utmost credit for serving up one of the more entertaining goalless games one would wish to see.
United will probably be the more disappointed of the two sides not to win it. Matlock at times were hanging on, aided by four clearances off the line as the visitors poured forward.
But more often than not they hit a blue wall of defiance as Town’s excellent defensive trio of David Haggerty, Adam Yates and Oscar Radford were immense.
Matlock named the side which finished Saturday’s win over Stourbridge meaning a first start in six weeks for Haggerty, Phil Roe operating down the left and Joe Leesley pushed up front to work in tandem with Danny Holland.
United began purposefully, while in contrast it appeared to be a sluggish start from the hosts. But a fierce wind blowing down the ground and into the faces of the Matlock players may have been a mitigating factor.
Matty Wolfenden sliced wide and Jon Kennedy held a Joe Fox strike in the opening nine minutes and it took 13 minutes for Matlock to threaten as Joe Leesley cut in to see his 20 yarder deflected over the bar.
The Gladiators survived a torrid spell of pressure around the mid-point of the half when United forced four quick corners. A Luke Ashworth header produced the second flag kick which saw Leesley twice scramble the ball off the line. Then great interventions from James Ashmore and Haggerty produced the other two.
Then Leesley scuffed a half chance wide, Holland’s header from a Lawrence Gorman centre looped over the bar and Josh Meade fired wide from distance.
But White should certainly have punished the Mancunians on 32 minutes when Ashmore quickly took a free-kick to swing a pass to Roe on the left. A short low cross should have been meat and drink for White but from inside the six yard box he could only fire against the post. It was an extraordinary miss.
United won the midfield battle, collecting most of the loose balls with Matlock perhaps sitting too deep, Kennedy did well to cut out a teasing centre from the left by Scott Cheetham with Michael Norton hooking the loose ball harmlessly too high then on the stroke of half-time substitute Andy Welsh, who had replaced injured prolific marksman Tom Greaves seven minutes earlier, also fired too high from the edge of the box.
Haggerty booted Fox’s 56th minute effort clear for the third last ditch clearance and nine minutes later Roe was the Town saviour being in the right place at the right time to hack clear James Knowles’ header.
In between Holland’s shot was charged down in a better spell of possession football by Matlock whose interim joint bosses sensed their side was tiring and made a hat-trick of changes before the final whistle.
But the Gladiators continued to literally put their bodies on the line in a superb defensive display which increasingly frustrated the visitors who eventually had to settle for a point.
Tuesday, October 21, 2014:
Matlock: 1 Jon Kennedy 2 Lawrence Gorman (Micky Harcourt 90) 3 Phil Roe 4 David Haggerty 5 Adam Yates 6 Oscar Radford 7 Josh Meade 8 James Ashmore 9 Danny Holland 10 Jamie Yates (Niall McManus 48) 11 Joe Leesley (Jason Stokes 65)
FCUM: 1 David Carnell 2 Liam Brownhill 3 Scott Cheetham 4 Chris Lynch 5 James Knowles 6 Luke Ashworth (Greg Daniels 55) 7 Matty Wolfenden 8 Dave Birch 9 Mike Norton 10 Tom Greaves (Andy Welsh 38) 11 Joe Fox (Matthew Kay 79)
Ref: Ian Smedley (Derby)
Star Man: David Haggerty
Report by Ian Richardson.