The first ever meeting between Matlock Town and Ramsbottom United ended all square and it was the least that Matlock deserved against their play-off chasing visitors.
But Matlock needed an 84th minute Niall McManus equalizer to cancel out Tom Williams’ scrappy effort which had seen Ramsbottom lead from the 12th minute.
Matlock though would be reflecting on missed chances which would have given them those extra two vital points and made their position close to the relegation zone a little less precarious.
McManus and Danny Holland both returned to the side after missing the defeat at Ilkeston seven days earlier and Corey Gregory, a substitute at Ilkeston was also given a starting place as Matlock attempted to end a losing three match run in the league.
It was Ramsbottom who began the brighter as Jon Kennedy was called on to block a Philip Dean drive from the left with five minutes gone.
Seven minutes later the outlook seemed bleak for the Gladiators as from a long throw on the left, the ball was helped on and TOM WILLIAMS was there ahead of Adam Yates to flick home. It was a poor goal from the Matlock viewpoint and open that would certainly make life more difficult for them.
But to their credit, they fought hard against a physical Rams side and should have been level after 26 minutes when Charlie Dawes broke clear of his marker to only have goalkeeper Grant Shenton to beat. But Dawes pulled his shot horribly wide and a great chance to register his first Matlock goal had been squandered.
Shortly afterwards Holland flicked an effort at Shenton as Matlock were well in contention and that seemed to frustrate Ramsbottom who had probably envisaged a comfortable win at the struggling Derbyshire club.
They should have been down to ten men when on 32 minutes Jordan Hulme tangled with Yates and then stamped on the Matlock defender. Referee Luke Watson indicated the offense as a clear stamp but remarkably only brandished a yellow card. That booking was followed swiftly by another as Williams was punished for a foul from behind on Oscar Radford.
Andre Johnson was introduced at the start of the second half in place of Josh Meade as Matlock were desperate for a goal.
They dominated possession but until late on could not fashion any decent chances.
Ramsbottom thought they had the match won on 70 minutes when Dean netted but the erect offside flag from the assistant chalked the effort out and Matlock were able to breathe again.
They burst forward and Johnson’s low cross shot from the right narrowly beat the back post. Matlock kept knocking on the door as Ramsbottom were being forced to defend in numbers and they had a slice of luck when Johnson’s shot struck Dominic Smalley and ricocheted off the bar for a corner.
But the seal on the lock of the Ramsbottom defence was broken as from the corner, the ball was cleared only as far as McMANUS, lurking with intent on the edge of the box. Matlock’s midfield maestro struck his shot cleanly and it went in off the underside of the bar to set up what might have been a grandstand finish.
Unfortunately from the Gladiators viewpoint that did not materialize, and Ramsbottom had the best chance to win it two minutes later but Kennedy was comfortably equal to Hulme’s shot to preserve a well deserved and hard earned point.
Ramsbottom were a disappointment, given their recent run of form which had seen them take nineteen points from their previous eight matches, but that was down to Matlock’s commitment and passion and the hosts will reflect that they probably did enough to win it.Had the Dawes chance been converted and Hulme received his marching orders, that could well have been the case.
MATLOCK TOWN: Jon Kennedy, Niall McManus, Oscar Radford, Micky Harcourt, Adam Yates, Ellis Humble, Josh Meade (Andre Johnson 46mins), James Ashmore, Danny Holland, Charlie Dawes, Corey Gregory (Martin Foster 80 mins). Subs not used: Caine Winfarrah, Lawrence Gorman.
RAMSBOTTOM UNITED: Grant Shenton, Dominic Smalley, Lee Pugh, Gary Stopforth, Stephen Howson, Cedric Krou, Tom Williams, Scott Burton, Jordan Hulme, Grant Spencer (Jon Robinson 78 mins), Philip Dean (David Kuba-Kuba 78 mins). Subs not used: Osebi Abodaki, George Grayson, Tom Brooks.
REFEREE: L. Watson (Barnsley).
BEST GLADIATOR: Niall McManus.