Last-gasp Gladiators fight back to snatch victory with two late strikes
Two goals in the last 14 minutes from substitute Alex Pursehouse and top scorer Marcus Dinanga, the second with just a minute to go, saw Matlock Town overturn a half-time deficit to defeat third-placed Whitby Town 2-1 in the Evostick Premier Division.
The visitors had gone in front on 27 minutes through Adam Gell and their slick passing and movement looked as if they would win the points, but never-say-die Matlock had other ideas.
Manager Craig Hopkins said: “They (Whitby) were the better side for an hour but then it was all us.”
He will be hoping for similar endeavour from Matlock, who moved up to eighth, when they are next in action in the Boxing Day derby with Buxton at the DCJ Group Arena.
Matlock were unchanged from their FA Trophy victory at Solihull Moors the previous week, but included a new face on the bench, defender Mason Warren who signed on loan from Rotherham United.
Looking to avenge an unlucky 1-0 defeat at Whitby in November, Matlock began well and had a succession of shots charged down.
The Seasiders had the first real chance when captain Steven Snaith forced Phil Barnes to dive to his right to beat away a well-struck drive from the edge of the box.
The Gladiators responded positively and Joe Doyle-Charles’ 25-yard effort was clawed away from the top corner by Shane Bland.
In the 18th minute, Niall McManus should have put the hosts in front, latching on to a clever back-heel from Marc Newsham before screwing his shot wide with only Bland to beat.
After Jamie Yates fired over the bar from distance, Whitby shook Matlock by taking the lead. Doyle-Charles looked to have been fouled but play continued, Callum Martin found Dale Hopson with a deep cross and Hopson pulled the ball across the six-yard box for Gell to fire into the roof of the net.
Whitby’s neat, concise passing game was causing Matlock problems and their difficulties were made worse when Doyle-Charles limped off to be replaced by Pursehouse.
Bland saved a strike from Dinanga but it was clear that Matlock had much to do in the second half.
They made a promising start as Nico Degirolamo’s header was blocked by good Whitby defending from a 51st minute corner.
Ted Cribley was introduced and Matlock appeared more dangerous through his guile.
However, the home side had an escape when Degirolamo was ideally placed to head a shot from Dave McTiernan off the line.
A second Whitby goal then might have seen the points going back to Yorkshire.
But Matlock refused to give up, despite the disappointment of Jake Green having a goal ruled out with a quarter of an hour left after Newsham was ruled to be offside.
A minute later Cribley kept his composure to cut into the box from the left and provide a perfect pass for the onrushing Pursehouse to drill a clinical finish past Bland for his first Matlock goal.
The home crowd found its voice as they willed Matlock forward.
Whitby had the ball in the home net through Snaith who was ruled offside, but it was virtually one-way traffic in the opposite direction.
A 25-yard strike from Michael Williams flashed inches wide and Newsham was narrowly off target.
But Dinanga found space in the box from a partially-cleared corner to slide his finish low into the corner to snatch victory before being mobbed by his team-mates.
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Phil Barnes 2 Liam Marsden 3 Jake Green 4 Joe Doyle-Charles (14 Alex Pursehouse 43) 5 Nico Degirolamo 6 Dwayne Wiley 7 Niall McManus 8 Michael Williams 9 Marc Newsham (15 Kevin Grocott 90) 10 Marcus Dinanga 11 Jamie Yates (12 Ted Cribley 52) Other sub: Mason Warren
WHITBY TOWN: 1 Shane Bland 2 Callum Martin 3 Daniel McWilliams 4 Andrew May 5 Luke Bytheway 6 Mark Robinson 7 Adam Gell (15 Kyle Fryatt 72) 8 David McTiernan 9 Steven Snaith 10 Matthew Tymon 11 Dale Hopson Other subs: 12 Michael Roberts 14 Anthony Hume 16 Kieron Welejdi 17 Daniel Dixon
REFEREE: Alan Bennett (Wigan) ATTENDANCE: 395 BEST GLADIATOR: Nico Degirolamo