Danny Holland had given Matlock a deserved interval lead against title contenders AFC Fylde, but the Coasters got a fortunate break five minutes into the second half to level through Andy Russell.
So the Gladiators had to be content with just a point on Saturday, November 9, having played some of their best football of the season as they dominated the opening half.
The equaliser gave Fylde a lift with the remainder of the match being more evenly contested but Town boss Mark Atkins was pleased with his side’s performance.
He said: “We played very well against a very good side and we’re disappointed to only have the one point. But looking at the bigger picture, it showed that we can compete against the top sides.”
Atkins’ first job was to name a side showing two changes from the starting line-up beaten 3-1 at Chorley in midweek. In came Corey Gregory and Lewis McMahon with Joe Leesley and Lavell White on the bench.
Then the Gladiators’ manager collected the Premier Division Fair Play Award for October from Evo-Stik NPL Respect Manager Phil Bradley before settling down to watch his side push the Coasters back for long periods.
Holland might have struck inside the opening minute as he latched on to a pass through the heart of the Fylde defence, but with the ball bouncing awkwardly, he knocked his shot wide.
Fylde’s response in the third minute was a shot pulled across the face of goal by Danny Lloyd but that was the only attempt from the visitors until Harry Winter, once a Gladiator, nodded a Bradley Barnes cross well wide on the stroke of half-time.
Matlock put together some exquisite passing moves, pleasing on the eye and greatly appreciated by the improved 343 crowd.
Micky Harcourt shot too high after an eighth minute corner was only partly cleared. Soon afterwards, McMahon drove comfortably wide. When Coasters’ custodian Ben Hinchliffe flapped at a Harcourt cross, Gregory’s goalbound strike was charged down.
But Matlock’s pressure was rewarded with a superbly worked 38th minute goal. McMahon and captain Liam Needham were the architects, linking sweetly on the left before Needham released Holland to fire clinically into the corner.
Immediately after the restart, Holland broke clear only for the offside flag to deny him the chance of a second goal before he inadvertently played a part in Fylde’s equaliser.
His clearance from a free kick cannoned off Adam Yates and sat up nicely for Russell to finish from close range.
Needham’s deflected shot was well saved by Hinchliffe as Matlock looked to regain the lead but Fylde had a 62nd minute chance when Jon Kennedy looked to have been impeded. Bradley Barnes screwed his shot wide.
Adam Sumner’s diagonal effort passed the far upright with twenty minutes left but Matlock too had opportunities to win it.
After Dave Hankin’s booking for a foul on Gregory, the free kick was nodded out to James Ashmore whose rising first time shot ended on the cricket field. Harcourt headed high and wide from a corner and Holland’s cross from the left was a fraction too far in front of McMahon who then saw Hinchliffe do well to save his shot.
Fylde survived a penalty box scramble and despite both sides making substitutions, the points were shared.
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Jon Kennedy 2 Micky Harcourt 3 Oscar Radford (12 Joe Leesley 90), 4 Martin Foster 5 David Haggerty 6 Adam Yates 7 Liam Needham 8 James Ashmore 9 Danny Holland 10 Lewis McMahon 11 Corey Gregory (15 Lavell White 86) Other subs: 12 Bradley Grayson 14 Lee Featherstone 17 Matty Leese
AFC FYLDE: 1 Ben Hinchliffe 2 Luke Danson (15 Ben Duffield 90) 3 Adam Sumner (12 Joe Booth 86) 4 Matt Hughes 5 Andy Russell 6 Caspar Hughes 7 Bradley Barnes 8 Harry Winter 9 Danny Lloyd 10 Michael Barnes 11 Dave Hankin Subs not used: 14 Ryan Charnley 16 Jake Gregory 17 Joe Mullen
REFEREE: S Eagland (Lichfield) ATTENDANCE: 343 BEST GLADIATOR: Liam Needham