Football may have been of secondary importance to a lot of people in Matlock given the flooding in the town and the aftermath, but at least the footballing Gladiators put a few smiles back on locals’ faces with a hard-fought 1-0 Buildbase FA Trophy home win against Ashton United.
It was not a vintage Matlock performance by any means, but it was one full of courage and character as they had to defend stoutly for long periods. And Ashton could feel aggrieved at not forcing a replay.
But the Robins, who played some neat football at times, paid the penalty, literally, for a rash challenge and not making their possession count.
Matlock won’t worry too much about that, however, as they have gone out of cup competitions in similar circumstances many times in the past.
The deciding goal came when Luke Hinsley broke into the penalty box and the trailing Ashton full back, John Lufudu, shoved him in the back.
Referee Alistair Wilson, who got a lot of decisions wrong in the game, thankfully from the Gladiators’ viewpoint, got this one absolutely correct and Spencer Harris calmly sent goalkeeper Jon Worsnop the wrong way from the spot on 33 minutes.
Ashton had started the game brightly but could not trouble Jon Stewart too much in the home goal.
Jack Rea tidied up as a run from Lewis Walters saw him slip in Liam Tomsett, who had rounded Stewart but Rea booted clear. A Chris Rowney header was straight at Stewart before Josh Wilson nodded goalwards, Stewart easily claiming above his head.
The best early chance fell on the break to Matlock in the 10th minute, Marcus Marshall and Hinsley combining well with Marshall eventually volleying his shot into the turf, the ball bouncing a long way wide of the target. As Matlock settled after an uncertain start, Hinsley could not stretch enough to finish a flicked on cross from the left.
The game went into a midfield battle for a spell but Ashton might have done better on the half hour when former million pound striker Jordan Slew cut in to fire a low shot that Stewart parried. Tomsett blasted the loose ball over the bar when composure was needed.
The penalty gave Matlock something to cling on to and they did it marvellously, despite a few anxious moments.
Ashton had the bulk of the play in the second half, Matlock’s most dangerous moments coming from balls across the box. Substitute Chib Chilaka’s second touch was a shot that was deflected behind, the Nigerian later turning well on the left to fire across the six-yard area. Harris drove yards wide from distance but Matlock were being forced deeper into their own territory.
Stewart looked intent on keeping a clean sheet. Lufudu failed to extend him with a low shot but Connor Hughes did with a stinging effort that Stewart knocked away in spite of a deflection.
Stewart denied Tomsett as Matlock hung on, aided by some great defending in front of the goalkeeper.
Adam Yates had a fine game against Slew and Bailey Gooda was winning his headers against Wilson, who is usually a problem in the air for defenders.
Ashton fought to the end, aided by a generous eight additional minutes played at the end by an official who booked seven players in a fairly contested match. Yates, Hinsley, Wiley and Stewart had the yellow card for the hosts, with Tomsett, Wilson and Rowney being the Ashton cautions.
There was a final onslaught from the Tameside men as a fierce strike from Nick Clee was deflected wide before Stewart fingertipped a Sam Sheridan free kick to safety.
When it came, the final whistle was met by cheers of relief and satisfaction in the home camp. It was just what the doctor ordered after a difficult week and the sublime efforts of groundsman Richard Lomas and his team to get the pitch fit after it was under water on Friday lunchtime.
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Jon Stewart 2 Adam Yates 3 Ben Gordon 4 Jack Rea 5 Bailey Gooda 6 Dwayne Wiley 7 Marcus Marshall (12 Chib Chilaka 61) 8 Luke Dean 9 Luke Hinsley 10 Spencer Harris 11 Dan Bramall (14 Piteu Crouz 67). Other subs: 15 James Tague 16 Ben Morris.
ASHTON UNITED: 1 Jon Worsnop 2 John Lufudu 3 Nick Clee 4 Gianluca Havern 5 Jonathan Hunt 6 Thomas Field(12 Sam Sheridan 46) 7 Lewis Walters (15 Connor Hughes 57) 8 Chris Rowney 9 Josh Wilson 10 Liam Tomsett 11 Jordan Slew.
REFEREE: Alistair Wilson (Boston).
BEST GLADIATOR: Adam Yates.