Gladiators knocked out by Griffin decider

TJ Nightingale, Matlock Town
TJ Nightingale, Matlock Town


A stoppage time free-kick from Adam Griffin was a cruel blow for the Gladiators whose workrate looked to have earned them a second bite of the cherry against the Blue Square Conference North leaders.

James Lukic was ruled to have fouled Tom Fisher 25 yards out in what looked to be a harsh decision and Griffin lifted a superb effort over the wall and beyond Jon Kennedy to put the Tigers into the next round.

Matlock boss Mark Atkins who sent out a weakened line up due to injuries, contested the decision afterwards, but he was also rightly proud of his players who received a warm ovation from the home spectators as they trooped off.

Clear cut chances were few and far between early on and while it was easy to see that Hyde are a good footballing side, Matlock deserved full credit for closing them down effectively.

With a little more confidence, Matlock might have fashioned a breakthrough on 28 minutes when Steve Warne found himself in space bearing down on goal on the right, but a fatal moment’s hesitation saw the chance evaporate. Then three minutes later, Chris Bettney was free on the right but his low cross eluded three onrushing team mates.

Frustration grew in the Hyde camp with manager Lowered carded from the dug out in the 37th minute and in a two minute spell before half time Lukic and Bettney were both booked by an over zealous referee Ricky Wootton who added the names of Witcombe and Yates, and Hyde’s Josh Brizell, David Birch and Fisher in the second half.

Matlock’s injury problems were mounting. Yates took a nasty knock shortly before the interval but was able to continue. Sadly Ben Algar was not and Lee Featherstone took his place.

Town began the second half promisingly. A neat move ended with goalkeeper David Carnell cutting out a low centre from Bettney and then Warne was halted by a fine challenge by Andy Pearson. Then a Bettney free kick was too high after Warne had been fouled 25 yards out.

A goalless draw was looking increasingly likely despite an end-to-end second-half which was exciting nonetheless.

Davies limped off to give a surprise appearance for Nathan Joynes as Matlock continued to battle bravely.

Kennedy came into his own as the game reached its conclusion, On 76 minutes a cross from Brizzell was headed on by Fisher and Kennedy responded with a tremendous tip over the bar.

Then two minutes later after Bettneyt’s free kick was quickly cleared, David Poole found himself in a one on one duel with Kennedy who again came out on top with a fine stop. Witcombe, another candidate for man of the match alongside his goalkeeper, cleared a Chris Worsley cross under pressure from Fisher before another back header from Fisher was again brilliantly kept out by Kennedy.

However, the immaculate Kennedy could do absolutely nothing to keep out Griffin’s top class strike from the free kick and Matlock had little time to find a reply. They had done themselves proud but seldom looked as if they had the quality to find a breakthrough.

Matlock : Kennedy, Witcombe, Bowler, King, Yates, Lukic, Bettney (Hunter 86), Warne, Nightingale, Davies (Joynes 70), Algar (Featherstone 46) Other subs: McGill, Buxton.

Attendance: 367.