Stocksbridge Park Steels 1, Matlock Town 1
Tyeisse Nightingale scored an 89th minute equaliser and was then sent off for retaliation in a brawl in stoppage time.
It was an ugly end to a game which was always simmering and while Nightingale, pictured, could have no complaints about his red card, it is difficult not to sympathise with him as he was kicked in the head by Richard Stirrup who got away scot-free.
Matlock boss Mark Atkins was also sent to the stands, a surprising decision seeing he had played no part in the melee which involved many players from both sides and the two dug outs.
Referee Barry Lamb then blew for full time when he restarted the game after administering his punishment to Nightingale and Atkins, plus showing home goalkeeper Ben Scott, who had run 30 yards to get involved, a yellow card.
Matlock just about deserved their point and a much improved second half showing followed a dire opening period when the Gladiators often struggled to string two accurate passes together.
Matlock conceded a really soft goal in the 24th minute to make life difficult for themselves.
After Gareth Davies fouled Matt Outram, the Steels winger floated in a free kick which the completely unattended giant centre half Brett Lovell met with a cushioned header back across Jon Kennedy and just inside the post.
The interval arrived at an apt time for Matlock and after a half time talking to, they emerged for the second half looking like a far more business-like unit.
Inside 90 seconds Davidson glanced a Steve Warn cross wide before Bettney warmed Scott’s fingers with a well struck shot from distance.
Scott then punched away a Bettney free kick at the expense of a corner before the goalkeeper held another Bettney effort.
Salvation came for Matlock from a Davies free kick just inside the Steels half.
James Lukic towered above the Steels defence to nod down beautifully and Nightingale was on to it in a flash to volley home from close range.
On the Matlock performance, manager Atkins said he was disappointed. “We were poor in the first half and better in the second but we should really be beating sides like that.”
As it was draw specialists Matlock had to settle for a point yet again. This was their tenth draw in 23 league games played. They did not deserve to lose, but equally over the piece, a win would have flattered them.
Matlock: Kennedy, Bowler, Featherstone (Whittington 88), King, Yates, Lukic, Bettney, Warne (Holmes 56), Davidson (Joynes 74), Nightingale, Davies. Sub not used: Buxton.
Attendance: 168 .