Gurjit Singh’s hat-trick for the Royals prevented Matlock from securing a third successive win on the artificial Coles Lane surface on Tuesday night.
His third came with just three minutes left to level the score, had the Gladiators stayed ahead, they would have been sitting at the top of the league going into the August Bank Holiday weekend,
It was a game Matlock should have won, so the draw was most definitely two points dropped. They needed to be more ruthless in both penalty boxes, being punished for poor defending and not finishing Sutton off when they had them on the rack.
Goalkeeper Phil Barnes said afterwards “I’ve not had to make a save all night yet we’ve conceded three goals!”
Ryan Wilson and Tyler Blake replaced Rhys Sharpe and Callum Lloyd as Matlock made two changes from the team which beat Altrincham last weekend.
Nervous defending from the hosts saw them concede two early corners as Matlock went immediately on the offensive, but it was the hosts who had the first meaningful shot, Aaron Birch firing too high from twenty yards.
Then came the first of three horrible challenges from Royals captain Zak Martin, all on speedy Matlock winger Darnelle Bailey-King.
He was booked for the first after ten minutes only to slap a hand across Bailey-King’s face shortly afterwards and escape with a lecture from referee Wayne Barratt. If he didn’t see red then, Martin should certainly have done so on 65 minutes for an elbow seemingly under the assistant’s nose which saw Mr Barratt speak with Gladiators captain Adam Yates and restart play with a dropped ball.
Shortly after Martin’s caution, his side went ahead, the 13th minute proving to be lucky as Sing ran at the Matlock defence, beating Nico Degirolamo on the left before firing a low cross drive into the opposite corner.
The goal dented the visitors early enthusiasm and it not until the 22nd minute when Jake Green’s shot from twenty yards deflected off the head of Jak Barnes for a corner, the pressure being eased when Wilson’s long distance effort dropped wide.
Green curled another strike narrowly wide before on 37 minutes Shaun Harrad brilliantly brought the ball down chest high before volleying the sweetest of shots over Mason Springthorpe and into the roof of the net.
A magnificent surging run from Dwayne Wiley ended with a low shot bouncing against the foot of the post as Matlock charged forward, but more poor defending saw them go behind for a second time in the 42nd minute, Sing again causing problems on the left before rolling a shot past Barnes and in off the inside of the post.
But a determined Matlock still went in for their half time cuppa back on level terms, a corner being played short on the right before Wilson lifted in an inviting centre for Wiley to thump in a far post header seconds before the whistle.
Marc Newsham replaced Blake for the second half and was involved almost immediately, turning neatly but firing well wide.
But the Gladiators went in front on 55 minutes when Harrad superbly held up a Bailey-King cross to set up Ted Cribley to blast a fine low shot just inside Springthorpe’s right hand post.
Now Matlock looked in control, Green having the ball in the net firing past Springthorpe on the hour, but being pulled up for fouling Brian Smikle.
A Bailey-King strike hit Nat Kelly to produce a corner which nearly brought a much needed fourth goal, Wiley’s header clearing the bar.
A chance fell to Newsham from a Green cross, the substitute badly misdirecting his header before Kelly was ideally placed to head a Green shot off the line . From the second of two quick corners, a Wiley header bounced inches wide.
Sutton had to battle hard to stay alive and survive they did, their hard work and resolve paying off when ye again, questions must be asked about the visitors defending as nobody got in a telling challenge on Birch who slipped a pass inside for SINGH to clinically find the bottom corner.
Matlock came again with Cribley, nearly unplayable at times, close to finding a way through but they had to be content with a draw and were left to reflect on what might have been. They do though remain in fourth and unbeaten.
SUTTON COLDFIELD TOWN: 1 Mason Springthorpe 2 Brian Smikle 3 Zak Martin 4 Aaron Birch 5 Jak Barnes 6 Nat Kelly 7 Niall Flint (14 Hedilberto Santos 77) 8 Jack McMillan 9 David Howarth (17 Nehemiah Zazi 55) 10 George Cleet 11 Gurjit Singh Other subs: 12 James Beresford 15 Conor Wright 16 Hoshane Gabbidon
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Phil Barnes 2 Nico Degirolamo 3 Jake Green 4 Joe Doyle-Charles 5 Adam Yates 6 Dwayne Wiley 7 Darnelle Bailey-King 8 Ryan Wilson 9 Shaun Harrad (17 Zeyn Hakeem 77)10 Tyler Blake (12 Marc Newsham 46) 11 Ted Cribley Other subs: 14 Callum Lloyd 15 Rhys Sharpe 16 Luis Rose
REFEREE: W Barratt (Bromsgrove).
BEST GLADIATOR: Ted Cribley.