Self inflicted errors plus one calamitous one from referee Martyn Rawcliffe contributed to a second league defeat in four days for the Gladiators in front of a sparse Autoworld Arena attendance of just 172 on Tuesday night.
Having gone in front through Oscar Radford on 28 minutes, Matlock let Rushall back into the game 12 minutes later from another set piece move to add to the two they conceded in Saturday’s visit to Curzon Ashton.
Then the Olympians must have thought Christmas had come early for their winner with 16 minutes left as a soft and suicidal header back towards his own goal by Lawrence Gorman had goalkeeper Jon Kennedy in trouble.
Kennedy, suffering from a sickness and diahorrea bug, could not grab possession leaving Stan Mugisha all the goal to aim at as he slid his shot into an empty net.
But this does not tell the whole story. The match could have taken a massive twist in the hosts’ favour four minutes earlier when Danny Holland headed powerfully goal wards and the Pics’ Aris Christophorou twice struck lucky as the ball appeared to have crossed the line before he pushed it clear with not just one hand, but two.
So even if it wasn’t a goal, it was most definitely a penalty with Christophorou surely seeing red and the visitors a man down.
It was a game changing moment and one that would prove crucial.
Whether the Gladiators deserved three points is open to debate. Rushall mostly appeared to carry the greater threat going forward and started the better of the two teams, both of which had been beaten 3-0 on their travels in their previous outing.
The Pics were just one place ahead of Town at the start, they looked intent on stretching that advantage. Matlock tended to overplay at the back, and in the final analysis that was also part of their downfall.
Aaron Williams, neat turn and 20 yard shot on 13 minutes skidded narrowly wide, before the same player blasted too high from a similar distance after a misplaced pass from Micky Harcourt.
Town planned utilising Holland as an out and out striker with Phil Roe and Charlie Dawes flying down the flanks and Joe Leesley and James Ashmore bombing forward from midfield.
They took a while to settle and, when Leesley retired having been sick on the field with the same bug as Kennedy, it was time for a rethink as Josh Meade came on.
Leesley, to his credit had come closest for Matlock with a chip that was too high on 17 minutes, but soon after Meade’s introduction, Holland was pushed in the back on the very edge of the Pics penalty box.
Roe’s free-kick disappointingly hit the wall and when Gorman centered the return ball, it was agonizingly out of Holland’s radar.
The breakthrough came when a corner was only partially cleared to Dawes who drove the ball back into the box.
This time Radford, with the aid of a deflection. found the onion bag to give his side a huge boost.
But the self destruction button was pressed when Adam Yates pulled back Williams who looked to have committed there initial foul.
Yates was given his fifth booking of the season, which rules him out of the upcoming Derbyshire Senior Cup clash with Buxton.
Kennedy brilliantly tipped Kris Taylor’s free-kick over the bar but from the corner, which big defender Aaron Brown attacked, a glancing header from which after studying video evidence, appeared to come off Matlock skipper Holland flashed into the net.
Again a preventable and poor goal to concede as Matlock lacked organization at a vital time.
The half ended with a mini spell of home pressure and a 25 yarder from Radford which flew over the bar.
Both teams might have scored within four minutes of the resumption as Belford pushed out a Meade shot to Holland who under pressure, turned smartly only for his shot to be deflected narrowly wide.
The resulting corner was one of many promising situations wasted by the Gladiators, as Rushall broke at pace for Gorman to save the day at the expense of a corner from which Brown flicked a free header wide.
Yates hacked clear as Kennedy struggled to field a low cross from substitute Ramone Stephens before the two match defining incidents, in between which saw a Roe strike from the edge of the box flash a yard wide of Belford’s left hand upright.
Yet Matlock still could and probably should have snatched a point. On 89 minutes Dawes pulled his shot horribly wide from just eight yards when superbly placed and then in added time, an instinctive first time left footed half volley from Holland beat Belford but also his same post.
This could prove to be an expensive defeat. Matlock are making far too many mistakes to win matches.
The referee’s clanger could and should have made Holland feel better after his unintentional part in the leveller, but while the referee undoubtedly boobed so did Matlock, with devastating effect.
MATLOCK TOWN: Jon Kennedy, Lawrence Gorman, Oscar Radford (Caine Winfarrah 65), Micky Harcourt, Adam Yates, Ellis Humble (Andre Johnson 79), Joe LeesleyJosh Meade 25), James Ashmore, Danny Holland, Charlie Dawes, Phil Roe.
RUSHALL OLYMPIC: Cameron Belford, Aris Christophorou, Liam Smith, Josh Craddock (Ramone Stephens 67), Mitch Tolley, Aaron Brown (Gavin Caines 72), Jake `Heath, Carl Palmer, Aaron Williams, Kris Taylor, Connor Deards (Stan Mugisha 65). Subs not used: Jacob Crainer, Kyle Delaney.
REFEREE: M Rawcliffe (Manchester).
BEST GLADIATOR: Micky Harcourt.