Matlock Town 2, Chasetown 2
A first win of the season looked to be heading Matlock’s way as Wednesday night’s home opener was in its 90th minute.
But then a miskick from Simon Sturdy and a mistimed James Lukic challenge on Dean Perrow handed the Scholars a lifeline from the penalty spot, which Perrow gleefully accepted to earn the visitors a draw.
There was little time left to try again, even though referee Keith Lawson played on for another four and a half minutes.
For the second game in succession, Matlock paid the penalty, literally, for poor defending.
Earlier, the Gladiators could not have wished for a better start, going in front with barely a minute on the clock.
Midfield dynamo Liam King released Ian Holmes with a slide rule pass on the left and the returning striker calmly slid a calm finish beyond Ryan Price and into the far corner.
TJ Nightingale then pressurised price into a sliced clearance which swerved behind for a corner but Matlock’s bright opening was dimmed in the seventh minute with Chasetown’s first equaliser. Nobody picked up Ben Jevons in the Gladiators’ penalty box as he collected a through pass from Chris Slater and he was able to comfortably sweep his shot beyond Jon Kennedy from 12 yards.
The concession of a poor goal knocked Matlock back somewhat and Chasetown had slightly the better of things for the remainder of the half.
In this period Matlock defended well with James Lukic winning important challenges and Gareth Davies doing likewise just in front of him.
When Chasetown did get a chance on 26 minutes after the ball had somehow fortuitously ricocheted towards Gary Hay, Kennedy dived full length to his right to push the ball to safety. It was an outstanding save.
Former Burton Albion stalwart Darren Stride headed narrowly wide from a Ramone Stephens cross to the back post, but it was Matlock who might have led at the interval when Holmes shot powerfully but too high from a Steve Warne pass.
Warne had an opening provided by Nightingale early in the second-half but a heavy touch from the midfielder saw the opportunity go begging.
Chasetown increased the tempo and Jevons 58th-minute shot looked bound for the bottom corner until Lukic diverted the ball to safety with an outstretched foot.
Soon afterwards Jevons headed too high before a significant Matlock substitution turned the game towards the hosts.
Lee Whittington’s trickery and vision from the left suddenly had the Gladiators creating chances and Nightingale failed with two inside a minute.
Davies’s excellent through pass sent him clear only for him to slice wide, and when Whittington was the provider, a heavy first touch took him away from goal, and he pulled his shot across the six yard box and beyond the back post.
But on 72 minutes it was third time lucky for TJ. Whittington again did the spadework and again it looked as if the chance would go begging but Nightingale managed to flick the ball past Price from a tight angle.
Nightingale then ran at the Chasetown defence to slip a short pass to Holmes whose shot ricocheted wide.
Matlock looked comfortable and a first three-point haul of the campaign looked assured, but one horrible moment scuppered their hopes as two vital points went astray.
Matlock: Kennedy, Harcourt, Featherstone, King, Sturdy, Lukic, Bettney, Nightingale (Joynes 83), Holmes, Davies, Warne (Whittington 62). Subs not used: Mallon, Kendall, Buxton.