Marcus Marshall’s third goal of the season earned league leaders Matlock Town a valuable and hard-earned point at foot of the table Ashton United, in a 1-1 draw which proved to be the Gladiators most difficult game of the season so far.
Marshall struck 20 minutes into the second half to cancel out Josh Wilson’s strike from the penalty spot which had given the Robins a 41st-minute lead.
So Matlock dropped their first points of the season, but remain in pole position and are yet to concede in open play with both of their goals against being spot kicks.
Few would deny that the battling hosts deserved their point, and many of home persuasion would maintain that they deserved all three.
The Gladiators were again without Luke Dean with fellow midfielders Nathan Whitehead and Jack Rea joining Dean on the casualty list. It meant first starts in Matlock colours for Jordan Sinnott, Spencer Harris and Josh Lacey while Friday’s loan signing, forward Luke Rawson from Chesterfield, began his second spell with Matlock on the bench alongside Andrew Wright and Piteu Crouz.
Matlock made the brighter start against an Ashton side, relegated from National League North at the end of last season and seeking their first win of the season, who grew into the half.
Their goal came with four minutes of the half remaining, Adam Yates brought down Connor Hughes to concede a penalty. Wilson stayed calm to send Jon Stewart the wrong way and slide the strugglers in front.
Matlock had to weather a storm shortly after this with Stewart called into action almost immediately and Dwayne Wiley made two excellent blocks, the latter one from Steven Tames being almost miraculously scooped off the line.
Matlock wasted little time in shaking things up by making three quick substitutions and they quickly equalised, Marshall rising to nod in a Bramall centre from six yards in the 65th minute.
As Andrew Wright mentioned afterwards, “we ought to have gone for Ashton then” but things didn’t quite turn out like that.
After sub Crouz shot at home custodian Jon Worsnop three minutes after the leveller, Ashton coped relatively comfortably with Matlock’s attacks, although both sides came close as the contest reached its climax.
Matlock needed to defend well and did, with James Williamson and Wiley outstanding in the centre.
Matlock missed Dean and Rae in their engine room and would probably be more pleased with the point than Ashton, whose display was certainly not one of a bottom of the league outfit.
They remain in the bottom three but will soon move up the league with more performances like this.
ASHTON UNITED: 1 Jon Worsnop 2 Curtis Obeng 3 John Pritchard 4 Gianluca Havern 5 Jonathan Hunt 6 Sam Sheridan 7 Nicky Clee 8 Chris Rowney (15 Liam Tomsett 87) 9 Steven Tames (14 Aaron Smith 79) 10 Josh Wilson 11 Connor Hughes (12 Callum Dolan 66) Other subs: 16 Simon Woodford 17 Jonty Cotton
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Jon Stewart 2 Adam Yates 3 Ben Gordon 4 Josh Lacey (12 Andrew Wright 63) 5 James Williamson 6 Dwayne Wiley 7 Scott Smith (14 Piteu Crouz 63)8 Spencer Harris 9 Marcus Marshall 10 Jordan Sinnott (15 Luke Rawson 61) 11 Dan Bramall Other subs: 16 James Tague 17 Ben Morris
REFEREE: Alan Bennett (Wigan) ATTENDANCE: 202 BEST GLADIATOR: Dwayne Wiley