Matlock and Ashton fought out their second scoreless draw of the season on Tuesday night after the stalemate at Hurst Cross eight weeks earlier.
There was no lack of effort from both sides and even if the quality was lacking in a closely-fought and competitive affair, the match was always on a knife edge as one error on a sodden pitch would have proved costly and crucial.
Bradley Grayson was handed his first start of the campaign following his return from Sweden with top scorer Daryll Thomas out with a thigh strain. Otherwise the Gladiators fielded the starting line up which had beaten Ilkeston three days earlier.
Ashton though looked a different proposition to Ilkeston. Quick into the challenge they successfully denied Matlock the space and time to play their football.
The visitors also looked speedy on the break although they only once tested Town custodian Jon Kennedy all evening when Gary Gee’s fiercely struck first timer from distance was expertly held by the goalkeeper.
Ashton might have taken a fortunate first minute lead when following a free-kick from deep on the left, the ball dropped and deflected narrowly wide off Adam Yates for a corner.
Danny Holland, the match winner on Saturday, turned provider with a fine low cross from the right on four minutes which flashed menacingly across the penalty box before eight minutes later snatching at a chance on the edge of the penalty box, the ball swerving wide.
It then became a midfield slog, although defender Jack Higgins tried his luck from 35 yards, his ambitious effort drifting wide as Kennedy had it covered.
Holland sliced a back post cross from Joe Leesley wide before an excellent challenge from full back Cavell Coo stopped Lavell White from converting a long pass which saw him initially outstrip the Robins defence.
Grayson’s header from a White cross lacked venom and was comfortably gathered by Ashton’s Paul Phillips before Joe O’Neill fired across the six yard box as Ashton broke at pace.
White glanced a Grayson cross well wide at the start of the second-half as the chances dried up.
A Jason Gorton header from a free-kick again failed to trouble Kennedy before the only telling goalmouth action came on 69 minutes when Harcourt’s ferociously struck shot direct from a free-kick was superbly pushed skywards by Phillips, the ball dropping on to the bar and down before sub Lewis McMahon clearly forced the loose ball in with his arm to promptly enter the referee’s notebook.
It needed something special to break the deadlock. That wasn’t on offer, nor was a terrible mistake or lucky deflection.
Neither side deserved to lose, equally neither did enough to deserve the extra two points in a tense tussle.
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Matlock: 1 Jon Kennedy 2 Micky Harcourt 3 Joe Leesley 4 Martin Foster 5 David Haggerty 6 Adam Yates 7 Liam Needham 8 Corey Gregory 9 Danny Holland 10 Bradley Grayson (James Ashmore 77) 11 Lavell White (Lewis McMahon 57) Other subs: Lee Featherstone, Oscar Radford, Matty Leese
Ashton: 1 Paul Phillips 2 Cavell Coo 3 Greg Pearson 4 Jack Higgins 5 Chris Lynch 6 Jason Gorton 7 Gary Gee 8 Ashley Young (Lee Rick 70) 9 Joe O’Neill 10 Martin Pilkington (Matt Chadwick 75) 11 Kayde Choppin (Lewis Killeen 88) Other subs: Ben Richardson, Steve Halford
Ref: D Bradshaw Att: 273
Star Gladiator: David Haggerty
Report by Ian Richardson