A crazy game brought fantastic entertainment as Ashton United and Matlock Town shared eight goals in horrible conditions at Hurst Cross on Saturday.
Both teams gained and lost two goal leads as the Gladiators’ 2-0 interval lead was quickly wiped out as they fell behind by the 56th minute and were two goals adrift ten minutes later - only for substitute Joel Purkiss to restore parity once more, his second strike, a truly memorable one.
Purkiss was replaced in the starting line up by Danny Holland, and as manager Mark Hume rang the changes, there were first full starts for Tom Burgin and Andy Gascoigne.
Ashton were in a rich vein of form having taken thirty four of the last thirty nine points on offer and looking for an eighth home victory on the bounce.
A hailstorm greeted the players as the match began with Matlock having the conditions in their favour during the opening half.
There was a chance for Nicky Travis inside the opening ninety seconds as he latched on to a short pass from Holland but slipped at the vital moment, so the opportunity passed him by.
He did, however have a hand in Matlock’s opener in the eighth minute, his superbly controlled volley being pushed out by Robins goalkeeper Paul Phillips to Niall McManus who gleefully fired the loose ball home.
Three minutes later Phillips spilled a fierce drive from Laurie Wilson and escaped as the ball skidded away for a corner.
At the other end a header from Joe Connor dropped harmlessly over the bar but Ben Wharton blasted wide from close range shortly afterwards in Matlock’s one scary moment of the first half.
Matlock were playing some of their best football of the season and were asking most of the questions. Liam Needham drove wide before the visitors increased the heat on the home defence forcing six corners on the trot. The intensity of the pressure paid off on 36 minutes as Wilson’s superb delivery from the left from corner number six appeared to bounce straight in although Gascoigne did his best to apply the finishing touch.
Matlock had every cause to feel satisfied with their first half efforts, now they had to cope with an almost inevitable Ashton fightback. Unfortunately they failed to do so and were left chasing the game.
It took just three minutes for Adam Morning to cut in from the right and shoot low past George Willis and halve the deficit and just 90 seconds later it was all square as Martin Pilkington was unattended to head in a cross from the left.
Ashton’s confidence from their recent great run had quickly returned and when Morning again found space to rifle another shot beyond Willis, Matlock looked set for defeat.
Manager Hume made a double swop, Burgin suffering from cold symptoms and Holland, being replaced by Ben Algar and Purkiss, but while they were reorganising, Matlock were caught cold once again as Pilkington broke free down the centre and calmly slipped his finish beyond Willis.
Matlock looked dead and buried.
But to their great credit, Matlock had a response and crucially within two minutes, they had reduced their arrears. McManus, a constant threat to the Robins back line, attacked down the left to slide a low centre into the danger area which Purkiss swept home.
For most of the remainder of the game it was all Matlock and they gained the point they deserved thanks to a brilliant Purkiss strike with ten minutes left.
It would be right up there for goal of the season as Micky Harcourt’s free kick was volleyed superbly by Purkiss in a style reminiscent to David Platt’s winner for England in a World Cup clash against Belgium in 1990.
Both sides went for the winner but in the end had to settle for a point. Matlock would happily have taken a draw on the way to Ashton. Having led 2-0 at half time there is a case to say they will be disappointed with only a point, but to be then two goals behind themselves, the draw against an in form team has to be counted as a great result.
Nevertheless it was brilliant entertainment on a gluepot of a pitch and given the horrendous weather, real value for money.