Matlock continued their annoying habit of committing defensive suicide as they were dumped out of the Integro League Cup to Hednesford on Tuesday night.
They took the lead thanks to a magnificent strike from captain for the night Shaun Harrad midway through the first half only to concede the first of three sloppy efforts to Reece King eight minutes later.
Then Danny Glover on 48 minutes and a Jan Yeomans own goal 18minutes from time compounded their misery.
There were slightly extenuating circumstances as it was by no means the Gladiators’ first choice back four.
Adam Yates was ruled out with a broken nose sustained in the first half in last Saturday’s defeat and Jake Green was injured in the warm-up.
It meant Kieran Wallace partnering Dwayne Wiley in the heart of the defence with Jamie Jackson playing in an unaccustomed right back slot.
It was a very attack looking line-up fielded by Matlock but yet again they failed in the basics of defending.
Since Liam Hardy’s stunning volley for Buxton’s second goal on Boxing Day, the Gladiators have now let in thirteen goals, all of which could be put down to poor defending. Such statistics can only lead to defeats.
Hednesford looked the slightly sharper side in the opening exchanges, Matlock having a let-off when full back Callum Mendez-Jones smashed an eight yard shot against the bar and Glover’s shot from the rebound was pushed around the post by Phil Barnes.
Earlier Michael Williams curled a free kick wide from twenty yards after Jackson had been fouled in a penetrating run down the right.
Curtis Morrison outpaced Mendez-Jones to fire an inviting low ball across the penalty box before HARRAD turned superbly on to a Wallace free kick to blast an unstoppable cross shot past James Wren for a stunning finish to put Matlock into a 23rd minute lead.
Both Harry Limb and Morrison showed their electric pace in separate breaks on the left in quick succession, the latter earning Matlock a corner as they looked for a crucial second strike of the night.
But the score was equal when Matlock stood off Glover from a right wing cross, Glover might have netted himself but played a dummy which saw King’s shot deflect off a defender to outfox Barnes.
Shortly afterwards Matlock again afforded Hednesford too much space as James Lawrie cut in from the left to fire a foot wide. Half time came with the tie still level after Williams could only fire softly towards Wren from a Harrad lay-off, Wren saving relatively easily.
The encouragement home fans had gleaned from an entertaining opening half soon evaporated when GLOVER was left unmarked to hook in a close range volley.
Matlock’s problems increased when Morrison was forced off with hamstring trouble, their injury situation being later exacerbated in the closing stages when Jackson was forced off with a twisted ankle.
Matlock huffed and puffed to try and find a way back, Williams slicing a first time effort wide when being off balance from Ted Cribley’s through pass. A Yeomans header from a left wing corner was deflected over by a defender, but there was always the nagging feeling that Matlock could be breached again.
Those fears materialised when Wren’s long punt caused unnecessary confusion with Yeomans heading over the advancing Barnes, Wiley’s last ditch attempt to clear being in vain.
That was game over as any confidence Matlock might have had slithered away. Harty Vince sliced yards wide and at the death substitute Chris Ondong-Mba should have netted when he could only volley wide from a Wallace cross.
A night which began with promise ended in more heartache for the home faithful. Matlock’s last opportunity of silverware from what is becoming a season to forget disappeared, and their injury list lengthened.
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Phil Barnes 2 Jamie Jackson (16 Harry Wood 89) 3 Jan Yeomans 4 Harry Vince 5 Kieran Wallace 6 Dwayne Wiley 7 Ted Cribley 8 Michael Williams 9 Shaun Harrad 10 Harry Limb (15 Zak Brunt 67) 11 Curtis Morrison (14 Chris Ondong-Mba 57) Other sub: 17 Alfie Smith-Eccles
HEDNESFORD TOWN: 1 James Wren 2 Callum Mendez-Jones 3 Matt Curley 4 Ben Bailey 5 Reece King (15 Joe Fitzpatrick 70) 6 Charlie Gatter 7 Louis Harris (16 Mason Walsh 66) 8 Tom Thorley 9 Danny Glover 10 Jordan Graham (12 Joey Butlin 78) 11 James Lawrie Other subs: 15 Samuel Oji 17 Jose Veiga
REFEREE: Richard Eley (Derby).
ATTENDANCE: 223 BEST GLADIATOR: Shaun Harrad.