Evo-Stik League Challenge Cup Semi-Final
Monday, April 4, 2011
Ashton United 1
Ian Bennett 75
Matlock Town 0
Matlock Town: Adam Sollitt, Adam Yates, Lee Featherstone, Liam King, Paul Sykes, James Lukic, James Knowles, Steve Warne, Dene Cropper, Lee Morris, Nathan Joynes.
Star Man: Adam Yates
Ashton United became the first side into the Evo-Stik League Final at the expense of Matlock with a narrow 1-0 victory at Hurst Cross on Monday and they will now face either Northwich Victoria or Bradford Park Avenue.
It was the hosts who started the brighter with Scott Metcalfe heavily involved in the Ashton attacks. Metcalfe had the best opening chance on ten minutes as Warne slipped and Sollitt had to be quick to avert the danger.
With 15 minutes gone, the pressure was all on Matlock. Yates looked to have timed his challenge perfectly, but the referee awarded a free-kick on the left hand side of the box. The ball was swung in neatly and, had anyone been present at the back post, the deadlock would surely have been broken.
Matlock had weathered the early pressure and were looking to exert some of their own. A long punt forward from Yates saw Morris bustling to get in behind the defence, but Robinson stood firm and turned the ball away for a corner. From the resulting corner, Cropper headed just wide.
Moments later, Featherstone whipped a ball into the box, Smith should have claimed with ease, but misjudged the flight of the ball and spilt it in the six-yard area. Unfortunately for the Gladiators, nobody was on hand to tap in.
Matlock were forced into making an early substitution on 30 minutes as Cropper had to be replaced by Turner. Shortly after this, Ashton proved they would still be a danger and Metcalfe found himself free at the back post with only Sollitt to beat, but his strike across goal did not find the target.
The visitors’ final chance of the half came as Warne struck fiercely from the edge of the box, Smith did well to parry and Joynes followed up to poke the ball wide.
Ashton’s remaining chance of the half came through Matty O’Neill’s curling effort that went just wide of the far post.
The deadlock was almost broken in the opening minute of the second half.
Featherstone pushed forward down the left and placed a fine ball to Joynes who controlled, turned and shot in one tidy move, but was denied by Smith’s outstretched left hand.
Both sides were pushing for the opening goal as it looked that a single goal may be enough for either side to win the tie. O’Neill went on a jinking run for the hosts, eventually being brought down by Lukic, but the free-kick was hit straight into the wall.
Within minutes of the change, Ashton were in front.
A mix-up between Sykes and Featherstone in the middle meant Ashton could break with ease and when Ian Bennett received the ball central to the goal, he had time to take a touch before firing home past Sollitt. So, the hosts had the lead with around 15 minutes remaining, but Matlock hadn’t given up yet.
Sykes had two chances to get Matlock level, his first a header deflecting away for a corner following a great block by Frost. His second fell after Morris had flicked a ball back to King, his low shot well saved by Smith but Sykes couldn’t score from the rebound.
Ashton made one final change to eat up some time as assistant manager Robbie Talbot came on but had very little time to add to the tie.
So, it was another poor result and missing out on another cup final day is disappointing for players and fans alike. Matlock must now look to gain as many wins as possible from their remaining six matches to try and maintain a play-off challenge.