Injury hit Matlock collected a useful point from unbeaten Ashton on Wednesday with a draw being the right result.
The Robins had full back Ben Richardson sent off after 68 minutes for pulling back substitute Lavelle White for his second yellow card but with Corey Gregory (knee) and Oscar Radford (hip and groin) collecting knocks afterwards, Ashton actually had ten fit players on the park to Matlock’s nine.
James Ashmore looked the Gladiators’ most likely scorer as he and Martin Foster worked tirelessly in central midfield. Foster was named skipper as Liam Needham had not recovered from his injury at Blyth while there was a debut for Jordan Snodin with Lavelle White arriving late with Anthony Griffiths Junior having been delayed at work.
Ashmore first threatened on five minutes as his fierce strike from Gregory’s left wing cross was charged down. The hosts thought they had nudged in front on 9 minutes but as soon as Greg Pearson’s ball in from the left found Simon Hackney, the Ashton debutant’s glancing header was ruled illegal by an offside flag.
Home custodian Paul Philips dived at Gregory’s feet following neat build up play from Danny Holland and Lewis McMahon but the chances dried up somewhat in a closely fought battle before Ashmore’s 38th minute free kick was turned on to the angle of post and bar by Philips.
A poor final ball by both teams in the final third brought promising moves to a halt although Ashton’s danger man Hackney fired in a low effort from the left which Kennedy brilliantly tipped aside for the game’s outstanding save.
Fussy referee Gareth Mellor showed the yellow card on six occasions before Richardson’s was transformed into a red, mainly for trivial offences, with Philips and Hackney being the Ashton culprits and Joe Leesley, Radford and Holland being the Matlock cautions.
With 10 men Ashton increased the tempo as defender jay Gorton headed directly at Kennedy while another header from Martin Pilkington flashed wide.
Ashmore came close to putting Town in front out of almost nothing with an improvised spectacular overhead effort passing perilously close to Philips left hand post. Then in the first minute of stoppage time Ashmore’s first time volley was well held by Philips and Griffiths-Junior’s shot was deflected behind as Matlock sought maximum points late on.
But neither side had that extra slice of quality or could find the penetration required to force victory. Perhaps Matlock’s exploits at Blyth had caught up with them a little, but last season they would probably have lost the game. This time they dug deep to ensure they took home a deserved point.
ASHTON: 1 Paul Philips 2 Ben Richardson 3 Greg Pearson 4 Jay Gorton 5 Chris Lynch 6 Garry Gee 7 Chris Denham(17 Carlos Logan 61) 8 Lee Rick 9 Kayde Coppin (16 Matty Burke 74) 10 Joe O’Neill (15 Martin Pilkington 61) 11 Simon Hackney. Other subs: 12 John Hardiker 14 Matty O’Neill.
MATLOCK: 1 Jon Kennedy 2 Gareth Davies (16 Anthony Griffiths-Junior 74), 3 Joe Leesley 4 Martin Foster 5 David Haggerty 6 Oscar Radford 7 Corey Gregory 8 James Ashmore 9 Danny Holland (12 Will Dennis 67) 10 Lewis McMahon 11 Jordan Snodin (15 Lavelle White 53). Other subs: 14 Liam Gaughan 17 Matty Leese.
REFEREE: G Mellor (Leeds). ATTENDANCE: 177. BEST GLADIATOR: James Ashmore.