Battling Blues knocked out by last-gasp strike

TJ Nightingale, Matlock Town
TJ Nightingale, Matlock Town

Saturday, November 26

FA Trophy Third Qualifying Round

Matlock Town 0

Hyde 1

Adam Griffin 90

Matlock Town: Jon Kennedy, Kris Witcombe, Kris Bowler, Liam King, Adam Yates, James Lukic, Chris Bettney (Ben Hunter 86), Steve Warne, Tyeisse Nightingale, Gareth Davies (Nathan Joynes 70), Ben Algar (Lee Featherstone 46) Other subs: Joel McGill, Nick Buxton.

Referee: R Wootton – Wakefield

Attendance: 367

Star man: Jon Kennedy

A STOPPAGE time free-kick from Adam Griffin was a cruel blow for the Gladiators, whose workrate looked to have earned them a second bite of the cherry against the Blue Square Conference North leaders.

James Lukic was ruled to have fouled Tom Fisher some 25 yards out in what looked to be a harsh decision and Griffin lifted a superb effort over the wall and beyond Jon Kennedy to put the Tigers into the next round.

Matlock boss Mark Atkins, who sent out a line-up weakened by injuries, contested the decision afterwards, but was also rightly proud of his players, who received a warm ovation from the home spectators as they trooped off.

“It was never a free-kick, it was a poor decision from a referee who’s had a poor game. He’s sent Gary Lowe (Hyde manager) off and he’s done nothing to warrant that. We feel hard done to but I’m very proud of our players. They gave everything and it was just a pity we couldn’t find that extra bit of quality in the final third. The desire and spirit they showed was first class.”

Atkins was without top scorer Ian Holmes, plus regular full backs Micky Harcourt and Oscar Radford, but Liam King and Gareth Davies were both fit enough to line up in midfield.

A 4-5-1 formation saw Tyeisse Nightingale as the lone striker.

Clearcut chances were few and far between early on and while it was easy to see that Hyde are a good footballing side, Matlock deserved full credit for closing them down effectively.

Forward Matthew Berkeley looked particularly lively for the Tigers with a number of promising breaks but in the main he was well marshalled by Lukic and Adam Yates.

He did, however, pull away from Yates comfortably in the 12th minute but his low drive flashed wide. His striking partner Tom Fisher cut in from the left six minutes later but his attempt suffered the same fate.

With a little more confidence, Matlock might have fashioned a breakthrough on 28 minutes when Steve Warne found himself in space bearing down on goal on the right, but a fatal moment’s hesitation saw the chance evaporate.

Then, three minutes later, Chris Bettney was free on the right but his low cross eluded three onrushing teammates.

Frustration grew in the Hyde camp with manager Lowe red carded from the dugout in the 37th minute and, in a two-minute spell before half-time, Lukic and Bettney were both booked by an over-zealous referee Ricky Wootton, who added the names of Witcombe and Yates, and Hyde’s Josh Brizell, David Birch and Fisher in the second half.

Matlock’s injury problems were mounting. Yates took a nasty knock shortly before the interval but was able to continue. Sadly Ben Algar was not and Lee Featherstone took his place.

Town began the second half promisingly. A neat move ended with goalkeeper David Carnell cutting out a low centre from Bettney and then Warne was halted by a fine challenge by Andy Pearson.

Then a Bettney free-kick was too high after Warne had been fouled 25 yards out.

A goalless draw was looking increasingly likely despite an end-to-end second half which was exciting nonetheless.

Davies limped off to give a surprise appearance for Nathan Joynes as Matlock continued to battle bravely.

Kennedy came into his own as the game reached its conclusion. On 76 minutes, a cross from Brizzell was headed on by Fisher and Kennedy responded with a tremendous tip over the bar.

Then two minutes later, after Bettney’s free kick was quickly cleared, David Poole found himself in a one-on-one duel with Kennedy, who again produced a fine stop.

Witcombe, another candidate for man of the match alongside his goalkeeper, cleared a Chris Worsley cross under pressure from Fisher before another backheader from Fisher was again brilliantly kept out by Kennedy.

However, the immaculate Kennedy could do absolutely nothing to keep out Griffin’s top class strike from the free kick and Matlock had little time to find a reply.

They had done themselves proud but seldom looked as if they had the quality to find a breakthrough.