Matlock came within nine minutes of deservedly knocking out holders Halifax as they again put in a fine performance in Saturday’s FA Trophy tie.
Curtis Morrison had given the Gladiators the lead a minute before the break and the hosts looked like holding on to that advantage until substitute Alex Simmons fired home to make Matlock travel to The Shay on Tuesday night.
Matlock named an unchanged squad while Halifax boss Billy Heath, once captain at Matlock, left out another former Gladiator in Liam King who came on as a substitute at the interval.
Halifax started the better as they attacked the Cricket Ground end, Phil Barnes diving at Nathan Hotte’s feet after a well worked free kick inthe opening minute.
Then six minutes later Barnes saved well from Josh Macdonald before Danny Clarke’s effort was deflected wide to set up a corner. This was aimed for 6’4” centre forward Tom Denton at the near post who glanced wide.
But Matlock then quickly found their feet and Ted Cribley’s cross was put over the bar by a covering Halifax defender, Michael Williams heading over from the corner which followed.
Cribley fired wide of the far post following a challenge midway in the visitors half which appeared to have seen the end of the contest for Adam Yates who was left writhing in agony on the turf. But captain Yates recovered and then gingerly returned to battle where he would be his usual reliable self.
In fact Yates came within a lick of paint of putting Matlock ahead on 20 minutes, his headerfrom a Ted Cribley free kick hitting the top of the crossbar. Now it was Matlock firmly in command and only a well timed intercepting header from Josh Wilde prevented both Marcus Dinanga and Williams profitting from Morrison’s centre.
Dinanga had a fine chance on 36 minutes when he was fre eight yards out from a Cribley free kick but he could only divert the ball straight at a relieved Tom Nicholson. For Halifax a long range Jordan Sinnott attempt sailed over the bar.
But it was soon Matlock causing problems at the other end with the Morrison/Dinanga combination looking particularly fruitful. Morrison fed Dinanga to fiercely shoot and narrowly clear the bar.
Joe Doyle-Charles blocked a shot from Hotte and Denton could only fire tamely at Barnes as Halifax offered a timely reminder that the Gladiators needed to make their chances count.
Niall McManus vlooeyed wide but the goal Matlock richly deserved came when the front two combined sweetly again. It was a controlled build up across the edge of the Shaymen’s penalty box, culminating in Dinanga passing to Morrison whose low drive nestled low in the corner beyond the diving Nicholson,
Billy Heath had obviously given his players some strong words during the break as Halifax began the second period with renewed vigour. A low cross from the left by Matty Kosylo might have caused more danger had a fellow attacker been in attendance but Matlock soon had a period of pressure themselves. A second goal then would undoubtedly have seen the Gladiators into the next round.
As fog engulfed the DCJ Group Arena, a strike from Morrison was well blocked but in that spell of ascendancy the ball would not drop invitingly enough for Matlock to make hay.
Barnes pulled off a fine save from a Denton header and then excellent covering by Jake Green denied Macdonald as Halifax sensed their grip on the trophy was being loosened.
A Doyle-Charles 20 yarder passed narrowly wide as did a Williams free kick, but just as it looked as if Matlock had done enough to upset the holders, the ball dropped to Simmons to crack a low drive past Barnes and give Halifax another crack at Matlock in the replay.
“I thought we were going to see it out,” claimed a disappointed Craig Hopkins afterwards, “but we’ll give it another good go on Tuesday.”
Billy Heath had no qualms with the suggestion his side was fortunate to still be in the competition. “Matlock were the better side and deserved to win, we’re very happy to still be in it.”
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Phil Barnes 2 Liam Marsden 3 Jake Green 4 Joe Doyle-Charles 5 Adam Yates 6 Dwayne Wiley 7 Niall McManus 8 Michael Williams 9 Curtis Morrison 10 Marcus Dinanga 11 Ted Cribley Subs (not used) 12 Marc Newsham 14 Jamie Yates 15 Alex Pursehouse 16 Kevin Grocott 17 Nico de Girolamo
FC HALIFAX TOWN: 1 Tom Nicholson 2 Cliff Moyo 3 Josh Wilde 4 David Lynch ( 15 Liam King 46) 5 Nathan Hotte 6 Scott Garner 7 Josh Macdonald 8 Danny Clarke 9 Tom Denton 10 Jordan Sinnott (16 Richard Peniket 54) 11 Matty Kosylo (17 Alex Simmons 66) Other subs: 14 Jake Hibbs 18 Ross Barrows
REFEREE: Paul Marsden (Preston).
BEST GLADIATOR: Curtis Morrison. .