Lukic leads the way in replay win

James Lukic v Ashton on Saturday.
James Lukic v Ashton on Saturday.

FA Trophy Second Qualifying Round Replay

Matlock Town 2

James Lukic 20

Ian Holmes 43

Hednesford Town 1

Marvin Robinson 18Matlock Town: Jon Kennedy, Micky Harcourt, Oscar Radford, Liam King, Adam Yates, James Lukic, Chris Bettney (Kris Bowler 75), Steve Warne, Ian Holmes, Gareth Davies, Ben Algar. Other subs: Nathan Joynes, Tyeisse Nightingale, Kris Witcombe, Nick Buxton.

Referee: M Walsh – Sheffield

Attendance: 279

Star man: James Lukic

Matlock dug deep to edge past promotion rivals Hednesford in Wednesday night’s replay and earn a home tie against Blue Square North leaders Hyde on November 26.

All the goals came in the first half and then Matlock, led by Captain Fantastic James Lukic, soaked up some intense Hednesford pressure as the Pitmen looked to save themselves. But for all their dominance, Hednesford could not find a way past an efficient Gladiators’ backline and Jon Kennedy was not seriously extended.

Lukic was a star at both ends of the pitch. He equalised 90 seconds after former Derby striker Marvin Robinson had fired Hednesford into an 18th minute lead. Then it was left to top scorer Ian Holmes to head the decider 90 seconds before the interval.

Chris Bettney replaced Kris Bowler in the one change made by boss Mark Atkins from Saturday’s scoreless draw at Keys Park as once again Matlock played the extra midfielder.

They nearly got off to a great start as, inside 30 seconds, Liam King broke purposefully and, with Steve Warne up alongside him, Hednesford were grateful that their goalkeeper Dan Crane was alert to dive at Warne’s feet.

The tie was played at a fast pace but without any real chances of note early on as a faulty pass ended moves prematurely.

Matlock conceded their first goal in 449 minutes of football when Hednesford’s Robinson found space deep in the Gladiator’s penalty box to rifle a comfortable finish beyond the exposed Kennedy. It was Matlock’s one slack defensive moment of the night.

Significantly though, Matlock were not behind for long. King was fouled 30 yards out on the left. Lukic headed down Bettney’s floated free kick towards Holmes, who then held off Pedro Monteiro to feed Lukic who blasted firmly into the corner from ten yards.

Almost immediately, the visitors won a free kick in a dangerous central position but after Chris Clements struck the wall with the setpiece, the midfielder screwed his shot horribly wide. Robinson had the ball in the Gladiators’ net again but a handling offence had been spotted by referee Matt Walsh.

Gareth Davies and Hednesford’s Elliott Durrell were both booked in quick succession for late challenges before there was a blow for the visitors as goalscorer Robinson limped off holding his thigh.

At this stage, Hednesford were winning most of the second balls but it was Matlock who scored the next and ultimately deciding goal. The Gladiators broke down the right with Holmes initially looking offside in the first part of the build up. But Bettney took over and with Holmes then finding himself free in the six-yard box, Bettney danced around Monteiro to float in a teasing centre for Town’s leading scorer to head in from just a couple of yards.

Hednesford were out for the second half early and immediately set about finding a leveller.

Clements shot weakly at Kennedy before Nick Wellecombe outfoxed Adam Yates to skim the top of the bar from the edge of the box.

A Lukic header at the other end was kept out by Crane, but it would not have counted anyway with the assistant having his flag raised. Durrell also grazed the bar as his shot took a faint deflection to earn the Pitmen a corner.

The pressure was eased as Bettney’s centre was met by King whose header was held by Crane who then watched a driven low cross from Bettney flash across his six-yard box.

Matlock continued to repel the Hednesford threat as Micky Harcourt and Oscar Radford cleared their lines with gusto and yet again, Lukic made a magnificent clearance as he read Jamey Osborne’s low cross from the left.

Bowler replaced Bettney for the final 15 minutes to give Matlock fresh legs and impetus. Full back Kyle Haynes narrowly missed connecting with a teasing low ball driven in by skipper and other full back Darren Campion at the back post, and that was just about Hednesford’s final sniff of an opportunity.

Matlock found gaps in the visitors’ rearguard as Ben Algar raced past Haynes, the cross just eluding the onrushing Holmes. Shouts for a penalty were turned down when Warne was baulked before Bowler was thwarted by Crane in a one-on-one.

Bowler, harshly sent off in the first tie, had certainly made a positive impact and Hednesford and their fans sensed that their Trophy journey was about to end.

For Matlock it was job done. Grit, determination, organisation and togetherness were there in abundance. Yes, they have played much better from a flair point of view, but the applause they received for their application and effort was fully deserved at the final whistle.