A mad first 15 minutes after the interval cost Matlock dearly as they relinquished their one goal advantage given to them by skipper Danny Holland’s first goal of the season.
Skelmersdale scored all three of their goals in this period to leave Matlock shell shocked but they rallied for Ted Cribley to pull a goal back almost immediately, and despite intense pressure on the home goal, an equalizer would not come.
A draw would probably have been a fair outcome in a tremendous, fairly fought contest, full of attacking football. It was a great advertisement for the non league game.
New signing George Willis, on loan for a month from Sheffield United replaced the injured Lewis King in goal while with Adam Yates suspended, Oscar Radford moved to centre half from full back, a slot filled by Ben Algar dropping deeper. Cribley was back in the midfield and Nicky Travis had to be content with a place on the substitutes bench.
Matlock made most of the early running without creating a chance of any note but gradually Skelmersdale came into the game and Algar did well to head clear a dangerous cross from Louis Corrigan. Then Rob McIntosh nodded narrowly wide and this was the signal for a plethora of opportunities at both ends.
Almost immediately Liam Gaughan found Joel Purkiss who cleverly made space for himself but fired past the post and then Matlock took the direct route forward and came within a lick of paint of going in front. A long clearance from Willis beat the Skem defence and Holland’s shot rebounded out off the inside of the post.
Straightaway Willis was in action to produce a brilliant save from Danny Mitchley’s volley and then Niall McManus had a shooting chance for the Gladiators but his effort lacked power and Martin Fearon saved comfortably.
Almond crossed low and dangerously across the Matlock penalty box before seeing Harry Coates clear his shot off the line. Mitchley then shook the bar from close range and from the quick breakaway, Cribley and McManus combined sweetly to feed Holland who fired crisply past Fearon after 36 minutes.
An eventful half ended with Coates superbly blocking a powerful Kenny Strickland strike and Fearon pushing aside a Purkiss shot at the expense of a corner from which Coates headed narrowly off target.
But having defended well in the opening half, Matlock made a nightmare start to the second period.
Willis pulled off a fine save from an Almond free kick but Skelmersdale had the bit between their teeth. It took a fine challenge by Radford to deny Mitchley at the expense of a second quick corner. Holland knocked a McIntosh header off the line but Matlock could simply not complete the job and Mitchley hammered home from six yards to level.
Four minutes later Matlock were behind and it was down to neat interplay in the Matlock box finished by Almond shooting past Willis and when poor defending saw Corrigan unmarked at the far post to slide in Almond’s low cross, Matlock looked in danger of being overwhelmed.
To their credit though, the Gladiators dug deep and were back in contention on 63 minutes.A McManus cross was missed by Holland but Cribley was on the scene to steer the ball goalwards, an eagle eyed assistant signaling the shot had crossed the line.
Soon afterwards Town struck the woodwork for a second time as Radford met a corner to cannon a header against the bar with Skelmersdale eventually hoofing the ball clear.
In a brave attempt to grab a point, a neat turn from Cribley was followed by a low shot which Fearon kept out with his legs, the midfielder then having another effort blocked before Tony Rendell blocked a McManus shot.
But Matlock were left to rue those fatal fifteen minutes. Apart from that, it was a good display. Skem moved up to fourth, Matlock dropped from second to fifth, the feeling being that teams will take points off each other in a very competitive league this season.