Matlock’s super subs brought the Gladiators back from the dead with two quickfire late goals to rescue a 2-2 draw t against Basford at the Proctor Cars Stadium on Tuesday night.
The Nottingham club led by two clear goals from Lewis Carr on 13 minutes and Nathan Watson four minutes into the second half with Matlock struggling to make any significant impact on proceedings.
Then in a sudden and highly surprising turn of events, Craig Westcarr halved the deficit from the penalty spot after a 79th minute foul by Brad-Lee Gascoigne on Jonny Margetts.
The best though was yet to come as Michael Williams hit a screamer from 25 yards that roared into the top corner and there were still eight minutes left.
Matlock might even have won it when Westcarr’s power packed strike dipped narrowly too high with a minute of the regulatory ninety to go. The ground would have erupted had that gone in, but Basford must be scratching their heads as to how they let a comfortable winning position slither through their fingers.
Cleveland Taylor tasted his first action since Boxing Day, partnered in central midfield by Nathan Whitehead, back after suspension but with little action in the past month. Therein may have been a good reason why Matlock looked sluggish with Greg Tempest also starting on the left of Town’s engine room after a brief substitutes appearance in Saturday’s loss at Hednesford. Another of Saturday’s substitutes, Marcus Marshall, partnered Jonny Margetts in attack.
Taylor especially, with Tempest and Whitehead needed some bedding in time and Basford were sharper all over the park for much of the contest.
Their strong start which saw Gascoigne fire narrowly wide from the edge of the box and Lewis Carr’s header suffer the same fate, was rewarded when Carr was allowed a free run and header from a corner on the right to fiercely beat Ross Durrant. Matlock boss Dave Frecklington was furious with more poor defending from a set piece after letting in two goals from long throws at Hednesford.
Tempest had pulled his shot harmlessly wide after his 11th minute free kick had been partially cleared. Basford then survived a scramble after another Tempest free kick and Margetts sliced yards wide from a third Tempest delivery.
Matlock had recovered from their slow start but could not trouble Basford custodian Kieran Preston in the opening period which ended with Durrant doing well to push out a cross from the industrious Courey Grantham and Dwayne Wiley miskicking from another Grantham centre, Durrant being ideally placed to avert a potentially embarrassing own goal.
Basford started the second half at express pace, Durrant superbly keeping out a thunderbolt from Matt Thornhill who then shot wide from the loose ball.
But the game was seemingly put beyond Matlock when Durrant blocked a Liam Hearn shot only for WATSON to totally bamboozle Durrant and his defenders, keeping his cool and patience to draw the challenge before scooping his shot into a vacant net.
Taylor and Tempest came off with goalscorers Westcarr and Williams being thrown on.
Initially Basford remained in control although there was a sniff of a chance for Matlock when Wiley flicked a Lee Beevers’ long throw across the box but Basford cleared and the speed of their counter had Matlock in trouble, Williams mopping up the danger.
Watson whose direct running was a constant worry for the home defenders came close to netting again but Durrant’s fine 74th minute save kept Matlock in contention but nobody of a Gladiators persuasion could have predicted the drama that was to unfold.
After Basford’s Jack Thomas flashed a shot wide, Matlock suddenly had a potential lifeline when Gascoigne tangled with Margetts near the goal line out on the left. Referee Jamie O’Connor had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and Westcarr calmly lifted the spot kick into the roof of the net.
Then came the equaliser which alone was worth the admission money. Marshall chased the ball into the penalty box, a poor Basford clearance falling to Williams, who with his less favoured left foot, smashed home an unstoppable drive.
Confidence which had been at a low ebb three minutes earlier had returned and that late show should give the Gladiators a massive shot in the arm as they prepare for title chasing Warrington’s visit to the Proctor Cars Stadium on Saturday.
It felt like a win, given the circumstances and had that late Westcarr attempt gone in, it would have been the perfect turnaround.
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Ross Durrant 2 Lee Beevers 3 Brad Beatson 4 Cleveland Taylor (12 Craig Westcarr 54) 5 Dwayne Wiley 6 Adam Yates 7 Callum Chettle (16 Jordan Chapell 69) 8 Nathan Whitehead 9 Marcus Marshall 10 Jonny Margetts 11 Greg Tempest (15 Michael Williams 56) Other subs: 14 Michael Hollingsworth 17 Nyle Blake
BASFORD UNITED: 1 Kieran Preston 2 Liam Bateman 3 Ryan Wilson 4 Brad Gascoigne 5 Stefan Galinski 6 Lewis Carr 7 Jack Thomas 8 Matthew Thornhill 9 Liam Hearn 10 Nathan Watson 11 Courey Grantham (12 Zak Goodson 84) Other subs: 14 Dominic Roma 15 Henri Wilder 16 James Reid 17 Dennell Stokes
REFEREE: Jamie O’Connor (Chesterfield).
BEST GLADIATOR: Lee Beevers.