Lewis McMahon’s exquisite free kick earned a much improved Matlock a derby point on New Years Day after local rivals Buxton had gone ahead through David Haggerty’s header.
On reflection a draw was probably a fair result although if any side was going to win it, Matlock looked the more likely. They created the better chances as the match reached a conclusion and played the better football.
After being savaged at Worksop three days earlier, this was a much better Town performance. They remained compact and far less susceptible to their opponents’ attacking threat, which had to be said was tame in comparison to what they faced at Worksop.
However, Matlock had to be on their guard, given the historical problems created by Buxton’s record scorer Mark Reed. But Adam Yates, forced out of the Worksop clash through injury in the pre match warm up was superb in keeping Reed quiet.
Talking of records skipper James Lukic was honoured before kick off, receiving a momento from Town’s record appearance maker Mick Fenoughty to mark his 600th appearance, an awesome achievement.
As for the game, given previous Matlock v Buxton matches, it was a relatively average game in which defences won the day.
McMahon was Matlock’s most dangerous attacker and early on he tested Buxton goalkeeper Ian Deakin from long range before latching on to a weak Deakin clearance and watching his first time effort drift wide.
Buxton’s early attacks had faltered in the final third but they made one count on 18 minutes from a right wing corner which centre half Haggerty headed firmly home. It was poor marking from Matlock who failed to heed manager Mark Atkins’ warning shouts from the dug out.
Shortly afterwards Massiah McDonald looked to be pushed in the Bucks penalty box when meeting a right wing cross but penalty appeals were turned down by referee Paul Thompson who handled the game sensibly.
It was testament to him that no cards were issued although Buxton’s Marc Roberts was fortunate just to receive a lecture for pulling back McDonald.
But McMahon exacted his own form of punishment by brilliantly shooting home from 25 yards direct from the free kick on 33 minutes.
Having netted his 17th goal of the season, McMahon soon looked to increase that tally trying his luck from further out with Deakin being ideally placed and after a scramble in the Buxton six yard area both Joe Leesley and McDonald were denied.
In a more open second period Matt Thornhill’s header forced a fine fingertip save from Jon Kennedy early on with the Gladiators responding almost immediately with McMahon and McDonald combining to feed Leesley whoseshot was blocked by Deakin.
Nobody wanted to make a crucial error as the game wore on with chances at a minimum for twenty minutes before two successive Buxton shots from substitute Kieron Lugsden and Thornhill were charged down.
But Matlock finished on a high. Leesley’s goalbound shot hit a Bucks defender on the back of his leg, which he can have known virtually nothing about and then the young Gladiators striker had a fine chance at the death.
Again he was well placed on the right, but he opted to cross rather than shoot and the move came to a disappointing end.
After the Worksop result though fans and management could not fault the commitment or invention in the Matlock performance. They showed tremendous character and just needed to find a more clinical finish.
MATLOCK: Kennedy, Harcourt, Radford, Foster, Yates, Lukic, Leesley, Ashmore, McDonald, McMahon, Roe.
Subs not used: Hazel, Gaughan, Grayson, Ellington, Buxton.
REFEREE: P Thompson (Chesterfield).
STAR MAN: Adam Yates.