Matlock Town blow chance to extend lead at the top
Matlock wasted the chance to extend their lead over South Shields at the top of the table as they slipped to a last gasp defeat at mid table Atherton on Saturday.
The Colls scored right at the end of each half , from a header by Joel Amado and then a controversial penalty from substitute Matty Gillam with the Gladiators substitute Callum Chippendale having equalised in spectacular style with a quarter of an hour remaining.
There was one change from the team which had beaten Mickleover in midweek as new loan Signing Matt Sargent replaced Liam King in midfield, King being named as a substitute. Ross Hannah and Chippendale were back in the reckoning after injury.
For the opening two thirds of the game it was déjà vu from the second half performance against Mickleover as far as Matlock were concerned. On a bumpy sloping pitch, they struggled to find much rhythm with Colls proving to be stern and stubborn opponents.
Matlock needed to start well and impose their authority on proceedings but that did not happen. The hosts had the first sight at goal as a header from big striker Marcus Cusani fell high and wide from Gaz Peet’s free kick on the left.
But the next opportunity fell to Matlock on 11 minutes and it should have been taken. Had it been converted, a totally different game could have unfolded.
Alex Byrne found himself in a one on one situation with goalkeeper Danny Taberner but fired against the goalkeeper, Liam Hughes seeing his strike from the loose ball blocked before Mark Lees shot over the bar from the edge of the box.
Atherton, kicking up the pronounced slope, replied as efforts from Jack Lenehan and Ben Conway were comfortably blocked before Peet’s shot from the left whistled past the far post.
At the other end Byrne floated a free kick disappointingly too high before Taberner did well to cut out a cross from Alex Wiles before Jamie Cooke drove over the bar.
Lenehan had headed wide from a left wing cross but AMADO broke the deadlock seconds before the half time whistle, heading in from a corner which gave Matlock a lot of work to do in the second period.
Conway in space might have done better five minutes after the resumption but Matlock defended well to snuff out the danger.
But Matlock needed inspiration and it came with the introduction of Chippendale who soon saw his shot charged down, the same fate being suffered by Cooke.
A further blow came the Gladiators’ way as Reece Kendall collected his fifth yellow card of the season which will see him miss next Saturday’s home clash with South Shields. Lees would follow him into the referee’s notebook later.
Matlock sent on attacking substitutes with Jesurun Uchegbulam replacing Adam Yates and Hannah coming on for Byrne and the ploy looked to have worked when Hughes headed down for CHIPPENDALE to beat Taberner with a spectacular bicycle kick shot which flew into the net.
Matlock now looked more likely winners with Hannah’s shot being blocked and Chippendale having an effort that deflected off Hannah forcing Taberner into a fine stop.
But Atherton recovered their composure to surge forward in stoppage time and when the decisive moment arrived, there was no time at all for Matlock to recover.
Matlock were incensed by the penalty decision which saw Peet go down under the challenge of Cooke and GILLAM converted from the spot with ease.
A draw looked to be a fair outcome, Matlock certainly though did not do enough to earn the win.
They did not handle the mantle of being league leaders particularly well but they will need to learn fast on how to do so as teams like Atherton will see them as a scalp. Matlock clearly are a much better team than they showed on Saturday.
Fortunately results largely went the Gladiators way with South Shields and Whitby both being beaten at home , although Buxton secured a last minute win at Radcliffe.
ATHERTON COLLERIES: 1 Danny Taberner 2 Clive Smith 3 Gaz Peet 4 Luca Defreitas-Hansen 5 Danny Lafferty 6 Joel Amado 7 Ben Conway 8 Danny Lambert 9 Marcus Cusani 10 Jack Lenehan (12 Matty Gillam 75) 11 Scott Sephton Other subs: 14 Elliott Rokka 15 Dylan Glass 16 Niall Battersby 17 Luke Hutchinson
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Shaun Rowley 2 Adam Yates (12 Jesurun Uchebgulam 61) 3 Reece Kendall 4 Ioan Evans 5 Ryan Qualter 6 Mark Lees 7 Alex Byrne (14 Ross Hannah 70) 8 Alex Wiles 9 Liam Hughes 10 Jamie Cooke 11 Matt Sargent (15 Callum Chippendale 54) Other subs: 16 Craig King 17 Liam King
REFEREE: Matthew McQuillan (Wigan)
BEST GLADIATOR: Mark Lees