Late Lukic strike seals a draw for the Gladiators

James Lukic v Ashton on Saturday.
James Lukic v Ashton on Saturday.
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Saturday, April 7, 2012

Evo-Stlk League Premier Division

Matlock Town 1

James Lukic 88

Marine 1

Aaron Rey 58

Matlock Town: Jon Kennedy, Adam Yates, Lee Featherstone, Liam King (Ben Algar 29), Laurence Gaughan, James Lukic, Gareth Davies, Kris Bowler, Nathan Joynes, Lewis McMahon, Paul Riley (Ian Holmes 65)

Other subs: Kris Witcombe, Nick Buxton

Referee: S Eagland – Lichfield.

Attendance: 295

Star Man: Kris Bowler

James Lukic’s 88th minute equaliser earned the Gladiators a point when a goal for the hosts looked unlikely, despite playing against ten men.

The Mariners had led since the 58th minute with a fortuitous conversion by Aaron Rey before having midfielder Jonathan Goulding sent off nine minutes later for going in high on Lee Featherstone to receive a second booking.

But for the most part the visitors’ organisation looked to be winning the day against a Matlock side who huffed and puffed for the most part, and lacked penetration in the final third.

Matlock brought in Nathan Joynes, leaving top scorer Ian Holmes on the substitutes bench with Gareth Davies taking Ben Algar’s place after injury.

Matlock’s largely good home record was expected to receive a tough test against the seventh-placed Merseysiders, who boasted an outstanding away record of 13 league wins and just two defeats leading into the game.

And in the early stages, Marine looked determined to add win number 14 on their travels as they pushed the Gladiators deep into their own territory.

Darren Byers shot high over the bar in the sixth minute before his side won a number of corners. Lukic made a tremendous block from John Shaw and Jon Kennedy pushed out an effort from Louis Barnes before clawing away a header from Shaw. A Marine foul relieved Matlock of any further pressure in this attack.

Lukic was again outstanding in defence and Kris Bowler was a willing workhorse in midfield, having to take on a bigger workload when Liam King limped off with a dead leg in the 29th minute.

But little had been seen of Matlock as an attacking force until a Lewis McMahon free kick was comfortably cleared in the 37th minute.

Marine had also lost their earlier verve and a fairly sterile opening half ended when Rey latched on to a ball down the middle which Laurence Gaughan inadvertently put in his path, but Rey lifted his shot carelessly too high.

There was early promise for Matlock after the interval as McMahon released Paul Riley down the left and his low firmly driven centre was just out of the reach of Joynes and substitute Ben Algar.

Then Bowler made an excellent tackle on Goulding midway in the Marine half to find Davies whose 25-yarder was held by goalkeeper Callum Williams.

In between these two Matlock chances, Nick Rogan shot high and harmlessly wide.

It was fair to say that the game was not one for the football purist.

Kennedy easily held an effort from Rey who then profited from a slice of luck to give the Mariners the lead.

Barnes’s free kick from the right came off Rey, who appeared to know little about it, leaving Kennedy rooted to the spot.

Holmes replaced the limping Riley midway through the half and was immediately ruled offside from a flick through the middle.

Marine appeared to be under little threat after Goulding’s red card with Williams having little to do.

A McMahon free kick from the left on 85 minutes dropped harmlessly over the bar as a third scoreless game on the trot looked to be looming for Matlock.

But out of the blue came a goal as Holmes, at the far post, nodded back a ball from the right and Lukic stabbed in with Joynes also looking to make the crucial touch.

Suddenly, Matlock looked dominant for the first time in the game as Algar neatly created himself a shooting chance with Williams dropping on his low effort and Holmes shot at the underworked Marine custodian.

Goal machine Ross Hannah was watching from the sidelines.

How Matlock could do with him right now!