Gladiators scare big boys in six-goal thriller

Ful report here

A late equaliser denied the Gladiators all three points in an opening day thriller at Gigg Lane.

Ross Hannah's first two competitive Gladiators goals sandwiched two from United's Kyle Wilson.

Dene Cropper put Town back in front after the interval, but United substitute Chris Baguley ensured honours would be shared with an 89th minute leveller.

Matlock recalled Ryan Davis at right back with Liam King being included in midfield meaning that Simon Harrison was unlucky in having to settle for a place on the bench.

The Gladiators fielded an attacking looking starting line up which included four debutants plus Jamie Jackson who has made his move to Causeway Lane permanent, having been on loan from Chesterfield last season.

Matlock quickly settled in front of a 2,334 crowd with skipper Simon Barraclough having an effort blocked after good work by Jackson.

Then Cropper played in Hannah who was crowded out and when the ball was returned thanks to an excellent Lee featherstone cross, the offside flag brought respite for United.

After Hannah had fired another Featherstone cross at goalkeeper Sam Ashton, Matlock took a deserved eighth minute lead.

Jackson, a scourge to the United defence all afternoon, slipped a clever pass through to Hannah who lifted a sublime chip over Ashton for a quite outstanding goal.

Matlock looked in control as Steve Warne fired goalwards and United scrambled the charged down ball away from Dene Cropper.

United found their feet as Featherstone conceded a corner after Carlos Roca crossed after he had combined well with Jamie Baguley on the right.

When Baguley then beat Warne on the right, King had to concede a second flag kick, but they cracked on 17 minutes when Simon Carden went down under King's challenge.

It looked dubious from the stand but King admitted he had caught the United player and Kyle Wilson easily beat Andy Richmond from the spot.

Three minutes later the tables had been turned completely as Carden played the ball through the heart of the Town back four who were caught badly napping.

Wilson looked offside but was allowed to run clear.

Richmond came out to meet him but his clearance cannoned off the striker who then had the simplest of finishes to put United 2-1 ahead.

Carden had a decent opportunity shortly afterwards but drove weakly at Richmond, but it was end to end excitement as Matlock roared back for Featherstone to volley wide and the irrepressible Jackson forced Ashton to save low and well at his near post.

Then Featherstone centred from the left with Barraclough keeping the move going with a clever header back which United hacked clear as Cropper looked to pounce.

United's reply was an intelligent curling effort from the dangerous Roca, United's new signing from Northwich Victoria, which dipped just a little too late, before Matlock were back on level terms with another belter of a goal from Hannah on 40 minutes.

Warne's simple but effective pass saw him streak into the box to fire a classy diagonal strike beyond Ashton to end the first half scoring.

Matlock began the new half well, going close through Barraclough's overhead effort after Jackson had played the ball in from the right from a quickly taken free kick.

Jackson was petrifying full back Bradley Howard with his pace and intricate footwork, and he won a 56th minute corner which he took for Featherstone to head narrowly over.

But United nearly took advantage when Davis could not get in an effective tackle and Wilson fired too high.

The hosts then won a corner which was partially cleared and Richmond saved superbly from Jamie Baguley.

The value of King's defensive midfield work was then highlighted with brilliant covering as he dealt with a dangerous situation to head comfortably back to Richmond.

But Matlock then reinstalled themselves as favourites for the points once again on 69 minutes as Jackson again teased Howard before his high cross was met by Cropper who beat Dave Chadwick in the air to score with a fine header beyond Ashton.

That lead could easily have been lost or extended within another four minutes.

First Carden chipped wide with only Richmond to beat following uncertain Town defending, only for the Gladiators to nearly stretch their lead as Cropper's low left footer from 20 yards was brilliantly clawed away by Ashton.

But with their crowd urging them on, United rallied and Chadwick headed a free kick too high before the equaliser came as the ball dropped to substitute Chris Baguley, eight yards out, to make no mistake.

Even then though, Matlock might have returned home with maximum points as Jackson again terrorised the United back line before feeding substitute Matty Caudwell who drove wildly and horribly wide.

It had been top class entertainment and Matlock look like a side with loads of goals in them, but the flip side is that they will probably concede a fair few along the way.

The three at Gigg Lane were cheap ones, but they would probably have gone there and settled for a draw before kick off.

FC United will do well at home as their crowd can give them a goal start and they will get the benefit of the doubt with decisions like their second goal.

Neutrals will have loved Saturday's extravaganza and the chances are that Matlock will most likely be involved in quite a few more thrillers in the months ahead.

MATLOCK TOWN: Richmond, Davis, Featherstone, King, Laight, Foyle, Jackson, Warne, Cropper, Barraclough (Harrison 84), Hannah (Caudwell 88). Other subs: Webster, Benger, Foster (g/k)

REFEREE: P Gooch (Wigan) ATTENDANCE: 2334 STAR MAN: Jamie Jackson.

Matlock Town host Bradford Park Avenue on Tuesday at 7.45pm.