Matlock Town were pegged back and held to a 1-1 draw on the opening day of the season at Stourbridge.
It took only until the fifth minute for Marc Newsham to open Matlock’s goalscoring account, but hosts Stourbrfdge fought back to level on the stroke of half time to set up a tense second half.
Cricket at the War Memorial Ground had delayed the start to the new campaign by 24 hours.
And Sunday’s match had a sombre opening start as the family of former Glassboys youth team player Ryan Passey led the teams on to the pitch as everyone witnessed an impeccable minute’s silence in memory of the 24 year old stabbed to death outside a Stourbridge night club a week earlier.
The Gladiators handed debuts to Ryan Wilson, Darnelle Bailey-King, Callum Lloyd and Shaun Harrad but they were without the injured Michael Williams and Ted Cribley who had to work. They were on the front foot almost immediately.
Inside the opening 30 seconds Rhys Sharpe’s long throw from the left saw Harrad’s instinctive overhead attempt pass across the face of the goal.
They made a confident start and their dominance early on brought its reward as a long punt from Phil Barnes saw Harrad challenge the home defence, the ball falling for the alert Newsham to cleverly lift his finish over the onrushing Matt Gould,
Harrad had a strike from a Bailey-King centre blocked before Matlock had reasonable penalty appeals turned down from the corner as skipper Adam Yates appeared to be impeded.
The Glassboys’ first dangerous attack on 23 minutes was a carbon copy of Matlock’s goal only that Jordan Archer toe poked his shot narrowly wide.
But Matlock did well to set up a chance shortly afterwards through foraging by Newham whose cross to the waiting Sharpe was cut out by Gould.
Towards the interval Stourbridge, last season’s beaten play off finalists, began to threaten more. Archer turned well to shoot narrowly over from the edge of the penalty box before Yates did well to block a Jordan Murphy effort.
But with the game three and a half minutes into added time and the visitors wondering just where referee Neil Pratt had found all of the additional time, the hosts found a leveller.
Matlock struggled to clear their lines from a corner and Archer’s scuffed shot found the bottom corner to give Stourbridge a huge lift for the second half.
Barnes easily saved a tame strike from Leon Broadhurst in the first moment of anxiety for Matlock after the break on 54 minutes before the visitors were incensed at the award of merely a free kick right on the edge of the box when Sharpe looked to have been brought down a comfortable two yards inside the penalty box.
Yates met Sharpe’s free-kick but could only force his shot high over the bar.
Matlock then had to defend stubbornly for most of the remainder of the contest with a lot of excellent performances from the men in anthracite.
For all of the hosts’ pressing they only seriously worried Matlock once, in stoppage time when having had to replace cramp victim Yates with Nico Degirolamo, Jake Green had to hook Paul McCome’s header off the line.
The Gladiators, though could easily have won all three points themselves when substitutes Luis Rose and Zeyn Hakeem combined well on the left, Hakeem’s cross though being met by a soft finish from Bailey-King which Gould saved with relative comfort.
Matlock would have settled for the point beforehand as the fans of both sides looked back on a hard fought clash where the ball spent a little too much time in the air and Matlock, despite competing well, lacked the cutting edge in the middle of the park.
Town’s defenders were in fine form with joint boss Glenn Kirkwood quick to praise them after scarcely putting a foot wrong.
STOURBRIDGE: 1 Matt Gould 2 Aris Christophorou 3 Darryl Westlake 4 Paul McCombe 5 Stuart Pierrpoint 6 Connor Gater 7 Aaron Forde 8 Leon Broadhurst (15 Danny O’Callaghan 74)t 9 Jordan Archer(12 Ryan Rowe 85) 10 Jordan Murphy 11 Kayleden Brown (16 Brandon Hague 56) Other subs: 14 Jack Duggan 17 Josh Green
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Phil Barnes 2 Ryan Wilson 3 Jake Green 4 Joe Doyle-Charles 5 Adam Yates (15 Nico Degirolamo 90) 6 Dwayne Wiley 7 Darnelle Bailey-King 8 Callum Lloyd 9 Shaun Harrad 10 Marc Newsham (12 Zeyn Hakeem 62) 11 Rhys Sharpe (14 Luis Rose 81) Other subs: 16 Todd Jordan 17 Rory Coleman.
REFEREE: Neil Pratt (Staffordshire). .
BEST GLADIATOR: Ryan Wilson.