Superb defensive display earns gritty Town a replay

Gareth Davies, Matlock Town.
Gareth Davies, Matlock Town.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

FA Trophy Second Qualifying Round

Hednesford Town 0

Matlock Town 0

Matlock Town: Jon Kennedy, Micky Harcourt, Oscar Radford, Liam King, Adam Yates, James Lukic, Kris Bowler, Steve Warne (Chris Bettney 77), Ian Holmes (Nathan Joynes 81), Gareth Davies, Ben Algar. Other subs: Tyeisse Nightingale, Kris Witcombe, Nick Buxton

Referee: C Dunn (Newcastle-under-Lyme)

Attendance: 391

Sar man: Gareth Davies

Matlock deservedly earned themselves a replay despite having to play the last 25 minutes with ten men after Kris Bowler was controversially sent off.

A second yellow card and a red one were handed out by referee Carl Dunn who ruled that Bowler had dived when challenged by Kyle Haynes. Bowler was just about to pull the trigger and had no reason to go down as he was well placed for his shooting chance.

Even with a man advantage though, Hednesford could not break the Gladiators’ resilience as another tip-top defensive performance foiled the hosts, who were unbeaten in league games at their Keys Park fortress for a year.

Mark Atkins’s horses for courses approach again saw him go with a 4-5-1 formation with Ian Holmes the lone out-and-out striker. The changes from the win against Stocksbridge saw Gareth Davies and Kris Bowler step into the midfield with Chris Bettney and Nathan Joynes on the bench.

Bowler was lectured in the opening minute when he went in hard on Chris Clements but Matlock began well and goalkeeper Dan Crane had to dive smartly to his right to palm away a well-struck 25-yarder from Davies, who shot wide from a similar distance shortly afterwards.

Steve Warne made ground down the right and Crane did well to pluck Warne’s hanging cross from out of the afternoon sky. Ben Algar then drove forward but shot too high from fully 35 yards.

The match then became a war of attrition in midfield. Little had been seen of the Pitmen’s attack. Bowler was booked for a high kick on Denny that looked more accidental than intentional and Davies soon followed him, presumably for dissent.

In between the bookings, Matlock won a free kick which Davies curled at Crane. Marvin Robinson was booked on 39 minutes for a late challenge on Jon Kennedy. Bowler’s dismissal was all the more galling from a Matlock perspective given that Robinson again went in on Kennedy with studs showing in the second half, and although a free kick was given, there was no further punishment.

It was 41 minutes before Kennedy was seriously tested when Ben Jevons saw his low effort turned aside. This was in a spell of sustained pressure from the hosts but Matlock weathered the storm and might have broken the deadlock on the stroke of half-time when Crane tipped Warne’s shot around the post and, from the corner, Adam Yates was penalised for pushing.

Hednesford were straight on the attack as the second half got under way, instantly winning a corner. Oscar Radford nodded away a Cheyenne Dunkley header with Elliott Durrell blasting over the bar.

Then came Bowler’s dismissal and two minutes later assistant manager Nick Buxton was sent to the stands for offering Mr Dunn some refereeing advice.

Robinson came a lot closer on 74 minutes when his header dropped on to the top of the net. Kennedy held a Mark Danks shot after the substitute cut in before Matlock made two substitutions as Bettney and Joynes came on for Warne and Holmes.

Lukic produced a timely block from substitute Nick Wellecombe with the game in its final ten minutes. Then Matlock might have won it as Bettney won a right wing corner which he floated invitingly into the danger area. Joynes had a clear header which he put over the bar.

Matlock fought hard and were by no means negative. While Hednesford had more of the play after the interval, Matlock looked the more dangerous in the first half. A draw was a fair result.