Injury-time drama as the Gladiators leave it late to snatch win over ten men
Matlock Town's substitutes swung the game for the Gladiators in injury-time as they overcame Stalybridge Celtic 3-1 for an Evo-Stik League home win.
The hosts had been hanging on grimly for only a point as Stalybridge, despite having a man less, looked the more likely winners.
But then Jamie Jackson, a minute into added time, and Jake Green six minutes later struck.
An encouraging 521 crowd had seen the Gladiators go in front thanks to Marcus Marshall in only the second minute.
Celtic had central defender Oly Marx sent off in the 35th minute for fouling Luke Hinsley when the last man.
But as so often happens, the ten men showed the fight 11 might not have shown.
Matlock started the secondw half sloppily and were pinned back for long periods, so it was no surprise when Celtic equalised thanks to Liam Tongue on 64 minutes.
The home side struggled to impose any form of authority on the game but their substitutes stepped up to see them home.
Did Matlock deserve all three points?
On the balance of the play it has to be a clear no, but factor in the resilience, commitment and a sheer not-to-be-beaten attitude from Matlock, then the answer is one point possibly.
Three was pushing it, but Dave Frecklington’s merry men will not complain.
Shaun Harrad was named as a substitute after a ten-week absence through injury and would play an integral role in Matlock’s unlikely win.
The recalled Marshallwasted no time in making his mark, nodding home a Craig King cross from the left inside the opening two minutes.
He might have doubled both his own personal tally and Matlock’s six minutes later, volleying a Nathan Whitehead cross from the right over the bar when well placed, after Whiteead’s persistence saw him rob Ross Dent a little too easily.
Bridge captain Danny Brady nodded a corner slightly too high, Ross Durrant advancing at pace to head away a long punt towards his penalty area. Tongue’s deflected strike resulted in a corner from which Bakkor cut in from the left to crash a wayward shot that was close to striking the corner flag.
Then came the red card for Marx.
King’s free kick was blocked before Marshall’s header fell wide as Matlock maintained the pressure.
Hollingsworth was off target and Patrick Wharton plucked a King cross off Luke Hinsley’s head.
Tongue soon had an effort blocked as Celtic emerged for the second half with a purpose which had Matlock on the back foot.
They survived 13 minutes of pressure before Marshall fired straight at Wharton. But Durrant was the busier of the two goalkeepers, holding a deflected drive from Matty Wolfenden before pulling off a cracking stop from the same player.
However, Tongue equalised, shooting into a vacant net after Wolfenden had again tried his luck.
Now it was all to play for and Matlock, looking in a little peril but inspired by skipper Adam Yates, Matlock held their nerve and against the run of play, Matlock scored not once but twice to send their fans home happy.
First Jackson swivelled, after Whitehead’s shot ricocheted to him 15 yards out, to fire in a shot that Wharton got a hand to but could not keep out.
Jackson was booked for taking off his shirt in an act that was a combination of both celebration and relief.
Hare left the field with a bump on his forehead after a clash with Scott Wilson, emphasising the commitment in the Matlock camp.
Then with the seconds ticking on and Matlock wanting the final whistle, Harrad kept his cool in a break through the centre to feed the onrushing Green, who drilled home his shot, again with Wharton half keeping the ball out.
Matlock had got out of jail to move up to eighth place in the table.
MATLOCK TOWN: Ross Durrant, Cleveland Taylor, Brad Beatson, Nathan Whitehead, Dwayne Wiley, Adam Yates, Taron Hare (Jake Green 90+3), Michael Hollingsworth, Luke Hinsley (Jamie Jackson 74), Marcus Marshall, (Shaun Harrad 84), Craig King.
STALYBRIDGE CELTIC: Patrick Wharton, Liam Tongue,Scott Wilson (Neil Kengni 90+3),Oliver Marx, Danny Brady, Michael Clarke, Scott Bakkor, Glenn Rule, Christopher Sharp (Josh Solomon-Davies 36), Matty Wolfenden (Greg Wilkinson 74), Ross Dent.
BEST GLADIATOR: Adam Yates.