Matlock Town beat Blyth Spartans to progress in FA Trophy

Matlock Town v Blythe Spartans (green), Danny Holland
Matlock Town v Blythe Spartans (green), Danny Holland

Matlock are in the hat for the First Round Proper of the FA Trophy along with the Conference National big boys after beating Blyth Spartans 4-2 on Saturday.

This was the best game for years at the ground with both sides contributing hugely to the entertainment, of which there was plenty.

Second in the table Blyth will probably feel they deserved at least a replay given the chances they created against a Matlock side shorn of three of their best players.

Blyth, without their talisman Robbie Dale, began like an express train and when Danny Maguire slid home a low Andrew Cartwright centre on six minutes, Matlock looked set for a long and painful afternoon.

But they were behind for only six minutes as Craig Nelthorpe won possession on the left flank and after a purposeful run, his low cross was helped on by Ted Cribley and finished off by captain Danny Holland from six yards.

Shortly afterwards Holland was in behind the Blyth defence on the left to chip over goalkeeper Fabian Otte, the consternation in the visitors’ ranks being eased as the bouncing ball was first headed and then hoofed clear.

Purkiss then fired over the bar from the edge of the box before Matlock hung on desperately when Alex Reid’s header struck the inside of the post before Willis powerfully knocked the ball clear and then within a further three minutes Matthew Wade was on the end of a fine Maguire centre, sensibly heading downwards, but the ball shaved the top of the bar.

Matlock made the most of their double escape to go in front on 27 minutes, and in superb style. Slick passing firstly from Cribley to Niall McManus and then to Holland saw the Matlock skipper fire brilliantly across Otte and into the far corner for a superbly constructed goal.

An offside flag denied Maguire and Blyth a leveller before Matlock looked in strife again when Maguire’s chip looked destined for the net until Nelthorpe appeared from nowhere to head off the line.

It had been a pulsating half and the excitement would continue until the end.

Blyth started the second half as they had begun the first, piling on the pressure and it needed Adam Yates to show once again just why he is one of the NPL’s top defenders with an awesome display.

Willis also enhanced his growing reputation as a top class stopper. He saved superbly from Steven Turnbull in the 54th minute, and from the loose ball, Ryan Hutchinson lifted his shot over the bar.

The young Matlock goalkeeper then held a low strike from Reid before dropping on a Maguire shot which had come back off a post. But he was beaten by a cruel deflection on an Andrew Cartwright shot in the 61st minute which looked to have swung the tie firmly in the North Easterners favour.

Mark Hume immediately sent on Siddall for Holland and it proved to be a master stroke, for out of the blue Siddall made it a memorable first team home debut when Liam Needham hoisted a chest high through pass which was expertly flicked beyond the bemused Hotte by the substitute to give Matlock a 76th minute advantage.

Still Blyth surged forward, Willis saving a Reid strike with his feet and then holding a Wade effort. Nelthorpe’s shot from distance comfortably found the cricket pitch with Matlock needing the insurance of a two goal lead which came with seven minutes remaining.

Again, Matlock broke with devastating pace, Cribley bursting down the centre to feed the supporting McManus who cut in from the left to curl a superbly struck shot beyond Otte.

Blyth did their best to try and force what now looked an unlikely replay, but with the crowd fully behind them, Matlock stood firm and resolute to progress from a truly memorable tie.

Both teams received a standing ovation as they left the arena, it was fully deserved. Matlock had rode their luck at times during the contest, perhaps that made up for the problems they had in the build up.