The Gladiators had to settle for a point in a feisty clash at the Autoworld Arena on Tuesday night which saw eight yellow cards and a Blyth equaliser six minutes from the end.
The Northumbrians really needed all three points to keep their play-off bid going but it looked as if they would make the long journey home empty-handed after substitute James Ashmore had given Matlock a deserved 65th minute lead.
But just one moment of indecision cost the hosts the extra two points in an otherwise excellent defensive display and Ashley Davis took full advantage.
Matlock’s Corey Gregory had a sight of goal inside three minutes but pulled a disappointing finish yards wide of the far post, while Davis forced Jon Kennedy into a comfortable save three minutes later.
Matlock swept back to the other end quickly with Shaun Tuton pulling a volley wide, before Gregory and Tuton were both denied by denied by keeper Conor Grant and a shot going wide respectively.
Lavell White forced Joe Leesley’s fine free-kick wide when well-placed, before Spartans nearly led out of the blue when in the space of 90 seconds both Liam Needham and Leesley might have inadvertently put the ball in their own net, Kennedy sparing Leesley’s blushes with a vital diving stop from the second scare.
White cut inside to shoot tamely at Grant in the opening attack of the second-half before on 52 minutes, fine approach play from Leesley on the left led to Tuton forcing Grant into a fine block save at his near post.
A probing run down the right from burly midfielder Arran Wearmouth ended with a low cross flashing across the 18 yard box before Ashmore was introduced at the expense of an unwell Cecil Nyoni.
Ten minutes after the change Ashmore had made the difference, firing home a brilliantly executed free-kick from 22 yards after Gregory had been brought down by Ryan Cummings.
Ashmore was then ideally placed to force Robbie Dale’s shot off the line at the other end.
Then came the Blyth leveller as Jack Broadhead, otherwise faultless, failed to clear an awkward bouncing ball and Davis converted a scruffy effort which Kennedy got a hand to, but could not keep out.
Suddenly Blyth looked the more threatening but there was little more goalmouth action.
Matlock can again feel a touch hard done to. They were the more accomplished outfit, but needed to take their opportunities when they were on top.
Tuesday, April 1, 2014
Matlock: 1 Jon Kennedy 2 Jack Broadhead 3 Joe Leesley 4 Martin Foster 5 Oscar Radford 6 Adam Yates 7 Liam Needham 8 Cecil Nyoni (James Ashmore 55) 9 Corey Gregory 10 Shaun Tuton 11 Lavell White Unused subs: Alex Bradshaw, Matty Wilkinson, Matty Leese
Blyth: 1 Conor Grant 2 Ian Watson 3 Joe Kendrick 4 Danny Parker 5 Nathan Buddle 6 Ryan Cummings 7 Paul Robinson 8 Arran Wearmouth 9 Ashley Davis 10 Matthew Wade (Ryan Hutchinson 67) 11 Robbie Dale Unused subs: Michael Scott, Boris Bonket, Lewis Horner
Ref: M Connell (Castleford)
Att: 208 Best Gladiator: Oscar Radford
Report by Ian Richardson