Alfreton staged a stirring comeback to score three second half goals and overturn a half time deficit to reach the Derbyshire Senior Cup Final.
It was the classic game of two halves, Matlock being the better team in the opening half before Alfreton, no doubt with a few choice words ringing in their ears from boss Billy Heath, dominated much of the second period.
Reece Styche put the Reds into a 10th minute lead before a brace from on loan striker Jonny Margetts, on his home debut after 23 and 40 minutes gave the Gladiators a half time advantage.
But a far more assertive Alfreton emerged in the second period and it was no surprise when substitute Danny O’Brien levelled just before the hour and former Alfreton goalkeeper Ross Durrant kept Matlock in it until Styche scored again with sixteen minutes left.
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Home skipper Adam Yates saw red for a two footed challenge on Styche shortly afterwards, Matlock finishing the game with nine men as Dwayne Wiley went off injured after the Gladiators had used all three substitutes.
A deflected Bobby Johnson effort squirmed in with two minutes left to complete the Alfreton comeback and hand them a tie against Mickleover Sports.
Matlock made enforced changes to the team which had won at Hyde at the weekend. Craig King was ineligible as agreement had been made between Matlock and Alfreton when King signed for the Gladiators from the Reds that he would not feature in any cup games against them this season.
A foot injury sustained in scoring the winner at Hyde kept out Craig Westcarr and Jordan Chapell picked up a slight knock at Hyde so in came Michael Williams, Michael Hollingsworth and Jamie Jackson.
Alfreton, beaten at Curzon Ashton on Saturday with Tom Allan, Jordan Sinnott and Nathan Hotte starting, and Callum Chettle and young Morgan Brough being included as substitutes.
In a tight opening the Reds scored from the game’s first meaningful attack, a searching Crossfield pass from Sinnott releasing a suspiciously looking offside Styche who fired firmly past Durrant with the home defence cut open.
David Shiels cleared a dangerously looking Jackson cross as Matlock replied and a 17th minute Greg Tempest free kick took a deflection, breaking to Margetts who shot into the sidenetting. Margetts went close a minute later, his header being straight at an ideally positioned Sam Ramsbottom.
Three penalty shouts quickly followed, Jackson for Matlock and Sinnott for the Reds falling on deaf ears before the third was granted when Martin Riley tripped Margetts and Margetts struck his shot into the centre of the net for the leveller.
Alfreton gave a way a series of unnecessary free kicks, Nathan Whitehead flicking his header wide from one in the 37th minute, but Matlock punished them three minutes later when substitute Chapell played the free kick short for Margetts to fire accurately just inside Ramsbottom’s left hand post.
It might have been three for Matlock shortly afterwards as Ramsbottom dived to his left to smother away Chapell’s shot which was bound for the bottom corner.
Jackson was brought down five yards outside the penalty box three minutes into the second half but Williams lifted his free kick high over the bar.
Alfreton then took a grip on the game and Johnson diverted a shot narrowly wide before Durrant’s catalogue of fine stops began with a flying save from Sinnott’s well struck shot. Durrant superbly denied Sinnott again but Alfreton were on top now and the goal which had been coming arrived when Sinnott played a corner short to O’Brien who evaded two challenges to fire hard into the far corner.
In the very next minute Matlock ought to have regained the lead when Luke Hinsley put a free header over the bar from a Chapell free kick.
Alfreton made the most of this miss and might have scored when the onrushing Durrant collided with Styche, Sinnott shooting wide as Durrant raced back to make up his ground. Durrant was at the heart of the action again with a fantastic save to claw away Riley’s header towards the bottom corner but he could do nothing when STYCHE slipped in behind the Matlock defence on to a long forward header to score with a low diagonal twenty yard drive.
Styche and Yates had been in conflict throughout and when Yates went in hard on the Alfreton front man, a melee resulted in Yates being sent to the showers with twelve minutes left.
When Wiley was helped off, Matlock’s chances of a recovery evaporated and after Durrant saved well again from JOHNSON, the midfielder’ss scruffy goal merely rubbed salt into open Matlock wounds.
It was a hard fought encounter with both sides having reservations over the refereeing but Alfreton’s strong second half display just about saw them with a deserved win after being second best earlier on when Matlock had shown the greater desire.
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Ross Durrant 2 Lee Beevers 3 Greg Tempest (12 Jordan Chapell 31) 4 Nathan Whitehead 5 Dwayne Wiley 6 Adam Yates 7 Michael Williams (16 Harry Wood 67) 8 Michael Hollingsworth 9 Luke Hinsley 10 Jonny Margetts 11 Jamie Jackson (15 Nathan Clarke 81) Other subs: 14 Terry Fleming 17 Jordan Pierrepont
ALFRETON TOWN: 1 Sam Ramsbottom 2 Josh Clackstone 3 Dominic Smith 4 Bobby Johnson 5 David Shiels 6 Martin Riley 7 Reece Styche (17 Morgan Brough 86) 8 Thomas Platt (15 Callum Chettle 58) 9 Tom Allan (12 Danny O’Brien 54) 10 Jordan Sinnott 11 Nathan Hotte Other subs: 14 Danny Clarke 15 David Lynch
REFEREE: Danny Middleton (Heanor).
BEST GLADIATOR: Ross Durrant.
BEST RED: Reece Styche.