Battling Matlock thoroughly deserved their hard-earned point at Stalybridge’s Bower Fold Stadium against an FC United side again fancied to be amongst the leading sides come the end of the season.
The Gladiators even had a goal disallowed in the second-half and had the better of the first-half opportunities before for the final 30 minutes they had to defend for their lives.
But with David Haggerty back to his best, alongside the also excellent Oscar Radford, and Jon Kennedy pulling off two world class saves, there Reds were denied what would only have been their third league win of a surprisingly slow start to the season for them.
Jason Stokes won an early corner on the left which came to nothing before Michael Norton’s shot at the other end looped up after a deflection towards the waiting Kennedy.
But it would be the 35th minute before United threatened again as Kennedy stretched to tip away an awkward looking centre from Scott Cheetham.
In between, Liam Needham pulled back a Danny Holland knock down across goal when a shooting chance looked possible, this quickly being followed by Stokes curling an effort straight at goalkeeper David Carnell.
Stokes left Liam Brownhill on his heels in the 17th minute, firstly crossing neatly to see United clear their lines before his second ball was poor and easily cleared.
Kennedy’s first great stop was on 39 minutes as midfielder Callum Byrne’s ferocious 25-yarder was expertly tipped over the bar, but then Matlock had two good chances plus a half chance before the interval.
The half chance came when Needham’s chip from distance lacked height with Carnell off his line. It was sandwiched in between Holland’s firm downward header from a free-kick being well saved low to his right by Carnell and then Leon Osborne being denied by Carnell when he probably should have burst the net.
Soon after the restart Osborne might have done better than slice wildly too high following intelligent play by workhorse Holland.
This signalled a spell of United pressure which saw Cheetham blast wide after his initial effort had been blocked and Tom Greaves fire narrowly past Kennedy’s left hand post from Liam Brownhill’s accurate through pass.
Radford was ruled to be offside as he struggled to turn in a deliciously served up free kick from Stokes before on 61 minutes Holland had the ball in the net from Stokes’ deflected shot but Town’s celebrations were cut short by the assistant’s raised offside flag.
Brownhill was then booked for bringing down Stokes in full flight, James Ashmore curling the resultant free kick a couple of feet wide.,
These last two incidents stirred United and Norton blasted wildly over the bar from eight yards to squander the best chance of the contest thus far.
The pressure on the Matlock goal intensified but so did Matlock’s resolve to keep the hosts out.
Jerome Wright’s low cross from the left fizzed across the box to win a corner, quickly followed by a free-kick out on the right which was similarly whipped in by Cheetham but beyond the back post.
But Matlock, despite being under siege for long spells, were not out of it as a fine saving header from Chris Lynch stopped Holland from nodding in Josh Meade’s free-kick. Then the visitors won a corner which was glanced harmlessly off target by Haggerty.
Five agonising minutes of stoppage time followed as Matlock clung on, their point being confirmed by Kennedy’s top drawer stop from substitute Matty Walwyn as the game entered its 91st minute.
After the no show at Frickley seven days earlier, this was much better from Mark Atkins’ troops.