A last-gasp controversial goal sunk Matlock Town — but their 3-2 home defeat to Witton Albion will be remembered more for the performance of the match officials than anything else.
Beeston referee Ed Pidduck will definitely not be on any Matlock supporter’s Christmas card list after a series of decisions went against the Gladiators.
The home side had fought back from two goals down to equalise midway through the second half, but were beaten by Steven Tames’ late follow-up after his penalty was saved with both sides finishing with 10 men.
Matlock’s joint boss Glen Kirkwood was dismissed for protests over the controversial late spot-kick.
The Gladiators conceded three goals for the fourth home game in succession and a listless first half display put them on the back foot.
They only managed two efforts at goal in the opening half, Lee Bennett lifting a sixth-minute shot over the bar and Shaun Harrad stretching to divert a difficult chance wide on 27 minutes.
In between, Witton had taken control, Phil Barnes flinging himself low to his left to keep out a ninth-minute free kick from Owen Dale before Dale saw his header deflected wide four minutes later.
It was third time lucky for Dale though in the next minute.
He collected the ball wide on the left and curled a delightful shot past Barnes from the edge of the penalty area.
Soon afterwards Barnes dashed out to head clear as Rob Hopley looked to benefit from a through ball, but Witton looked comfortable and deserved their interval lead,
Three minutes after the restart Tames drove at Barnes before terrible defending gifted the visitors a second goal in the 57th minute.
Brad-Lee Gascoigne had his head in his hands after his attempted nod back to Barnes lacked pace and Will Jones tucked his shot past the keeper.
Matlock made an immediate double change with Ricky German, back on loan from Chesterfield, and Curtis Morrison replacing Jake Green and Jamie Jackson, who had struggled to make any impact.
Six minutes later the hosts halved their deficit when Bennett rose at the far post to head in a corner from the left.
Within another four minutes the Gladiators were level as the Albion defence stood off Harrad, who brought the ball down and fired a superb 18-yard strike past keeper Ryan Nield.
Witton replied and Joe Doyle-Charles made a magnificent challenge on Jones to keep the score at 2-2.
Jones saw red with 20 minutes left after an altercation with Barnes, spotted by the assistant referee, that also saw the Matlock keeper booked.
Witton increased the tempo again after the sending off, but they might have gone down to nine men as defender Michael Wilson, the last man, received only a yellow card for pulling back Shaun Harrad, who had a clear route to goal.
The referee further angered the home crowd by brandishing a second yellow card at Doyle-Charles after a tackle on Foley, who appeared to hurt himself by kicking the Town midfielder’s boot.
There was worse to come for the hosts. A long pass out of defence was chased down by Tames with Dwayne Wiley closing him down.
The Witton player went down, the assistant flagged and the referee pointed to the spot to award what seemed to be a soft penalty.
Barnes blocked Tames’ spot-kick only for the loose ball to fall for the winger to fire in the winner at the second attempt.
Boss Glenn Kirkwood was sent from the technical area after home protests.
Matlock Town: 1 Phil Barnes 2 Brad-Lee Gascoigne 3 Kieran Wallace 4 Joe Doyle-Charles 5 Adam Yates 6 Dwayne Wiley 7 Jake Green (14 Curtis Morrison 58) 8 Michael Williams 9 Shaun Harrad 10 Lee Bennett 11 Jamie Jackson (15 Ricky German 58) Other subs: 12 Ted Cribley 16 Jan Yeomans 17 Harry Limb
Witton Albion: 1 Ryan Nield 2 Danny McKenna(15 Anthony Gardner 75) 3 Matty Devine 4 River Humphreys 5 Michael Wilson 6 James Foley 7 Owen Dale (14 Prince Haywood 72) 8 Tom Owens 9 Rob Hopley 10 Will Jones 11 Steven Tames Other subs: 12 Anthony Brown 16 Paul Williams 17 Nick Ryan
Referee: Ed Pidduck (Beeston).
Best Gladiator: Joe Doyle-Charles.