Lack lustre Matlock failed to heed manager Steve Kittrick’s FA Cup warning in midweek that they could have their fingers burnt by a lower division side if their performance fell below expectations.
That is precisely what happened at the Proctor Cars Stadium on Saturday as BetVictor NPL South East division Kidsgrove provided one of the shocks of the Second Qualifying Round to win 2-1, after trailing a the interval.
James Williamson’s first Matlock goal had edged the Gladiators in front on the stroke of half-time but two goals in just over two minutes midway through the second half, from skipper Anthony Malbon and winger Kingsley Adu Gyamfi, confirmed Matlock’s inglorious exit from the cup.
Kidsgrove showed a greater hunger on the day and it proved to be telling.
Luke Hinsley and Andrew Wright replaced Scott Smith and Spencer Harris in the starting line-up from the team that lost for the first time this season against South Shields a week earlier.
Matlock dominated a poor first half, Kidsgrove managing just the one shot at goal through Malbon, a tame effort easily fielded by Jon Stewart in the 22nd minute.
But for all of their probing, Matlock failed to seriously extend visiting goalkeeper Kieran Harrison too much. Their first two attempts were yards off target, Hinsley spotting Harrison out of position in the ninth minute but his effort from just inside the Grove half dropped harmlessly wide.
Wright then latched on to a knock down from Marcus Marshall in the 15th minute, but dragged his shot equally wide.
Dan Bramall was again the chief attacking threat and he went much closer than Hinsley and Wright on 20 minutes, Marshall again providing the assist before the former Everton youngster saw his shot deflected beyond the far post.
A Williamson header and a Josh Laxey shot were again off target before, from a free kick on the left, Williamson rose to find the onion bag with a header and seemingly put Matlock on the way to victory.
In the stoppage time that followed the Gladiators had a penalty shout refused when Bramall went down and, as the pressure was maintained, Marshall was a whisker away from converting a low cross from the left.
Matlock made a double change at the interval, bringing off Wright and Jordan Sinnott for Smith and Harris, with Hinsley being pushed forward to help Marshall in attack.
They might so easily have doubled their lead inside the opening minute when Bramall cut in from the left but with a shot looking the best option, he laid the ball across the box and Kidsgrove scrambled the ball clear.
It led to an instant break, which saw Malbon volley a reasonable chance over the bar.
Marshall went close in the 56th minute, creating the chance on his own with a neat turn and seeing his low shot deflect inches wide with Harrison well beaten.
But Kidsgrove kept plugging away as Matlock huffed and puffed. After a header by James Butler was cleared off the line, Malbon fired home the loose ball from six yards.
It got even better for Kidsgrove in their next attack, Adu Gyamfi shrugging off a half hearted Matlock challenge to thunder a low 25- yarder beyond Stewart’s dive and into the far bottom corner.
Matlock almost levelled late on. Williamson saw Harrison deny him on the line and Dwayne Wiley headed wide when well placed, before substitute Piteu Crouz, on the run, fired narrowly wide from 20 yards.
With it went Matlock’s last hope of saving themselves but as a clearly hurt Steve Kittrick said afterwards, when he received some critical comments from fans as he left the pitch, “we were poor today and we could still have been playing now and not scored.”
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Jon Stewart 2 Josh Lacey 3 Ben Gordon 4 Jack Rea 5 James Williamson (14 Piteu Crouz 86) 6 Dwayne Wiley 7 Luke Hinsley 8 Andrew Wright(12 Spencer Harris 46) 9 Marcus Marshall 10 Jordan Sinnott (15 Scott Smith 46) 11 Dan Bramall Other subs: 16 Adam Yates 17 Luke Rawson 18 Ben Morris 19 James Tague
KIDSGROVE ATHLETIC: 1 Kieran Harrison 2 Ben Hart (14 Max Murphy 77) 3 Alex Morris 4 Sam Hall 5 Richard Duffy 6 James Butler 7 Lee Williamson(17 Tyler Savage 62) 8 Rhys Thompson 9 Reuben Wiggins-Thomas 10 Anthony Malbon 11 Kingsley Ady Gyamfi (15 Lewis Bergin 90) Other subs: 12 James Jennings 16 Shaun Rhodes
REFEREE: Nik Storey (Manchester) ATTENDANCE: 377 BEST GLADIATOR: Dan Bramall