Matlock’s generosity in front of goal knew no bounds on Tuesday night as they went down 1-0 away at Frickley Athletic.
Chance after chance went begging, especially early on, and then the sucker-punch came through Joe Pugh’s 43rd-minute winner for the relegation threatened hosts.
If Matlock fail to reach the play-offs then they will look back at this visit to Yorkshire and the two points dropped at home to Mickleover last weekend as key, pivotal moments.
Once Frickley had got in front they fought like trojans to preserve their advantage and then might have won by more as Matlock held a high line, pushing forward for the leveller.
Matlock had nine worthwhile opportunities inside the opening 22 minutes but frustratingly from the Gladiators viewpoint, home custodian Sebastian Malkowkski was not worked nearly enough, and notably none of these opportunities fell to top scorer Marcus Dinanga.
The sharp Curtis Morrison fired straight at Malkowski, Ted Cribley goalbound shot was deflected narrowly wide, Adam Yates had one cleared off the line, Jake Green volleyed over, Niall McManus saw his shot well saved, Dwayne Wiley went close before Malkowski blocked a Michael Williams’ free-kick.
McManus, in the middle of all that, should have been awarded a penalty when he was sent sprawling in the area.
Then out of the blue Frickley nearly led when in a swift counter attack Pugh forced Phil Barnes into a great diving save. before it was back to the other end as Cribley fired narrowly wide, Joe Doyle-Charles was comfortably off target and an intelligent chip from Morrison cleared the bar by inches.
The danger for the visitors was what Glenn Kirkwood described as being “bitten on the bum” and from a scramble, Pugh turned the ball home from a foot out. Frickley had something to hold on to when Matlock ought to have been emphatically out of sight.
McManus was unlucky with a shot which was deflected wide by a whisker, but Morrison had a chance in the same move, elected not to shoot and Frickley survived again.
The second half was an even affair but the nagging feeling was there amongst Town fans that Frickley could get another goal to put them out of the game.
After Pugh drove beyond the far post and Barnes held a Luke Mangham strike, Tyler Williams’ 57th-minute miss from a yard out eclipsed all of Matlock’s earlier failures in front of goal. The visitors had a Williams shot which flashed wide and a tame Dinanga header easily claimed by Malkowski.
Sub Paul Ennis went close when his low strike was pushed over the bar by Malkowski. Then another Williams shot was blocked, as was a free kick after the midfielder was fouled centrally a couple of feet outside the penalty box.
But Frickley, first to the second ball looked more threatening, Barnes turning a Williams strike on to an upright and Mangham firing over the bar when well placed.
Frickley are unbeaten in four. winning three, while Town are now out of the play off positions after being in a poll position just seven days earlier.
MATLOCK: Barnes, Marsden, Green (Newsham 81), Doyle-Charles (Wright 65), Yates, Wiley, McManus (Ennis 65), Williams, Morrison, Dinanga, Cribley. Subs not used: Yates, Lloyd. ATTENDANCE: 235. BEST GLADIATOR: Adam Yates.