A missed penalty and own goal cost Matlock Town dear as they slid to a 2-0 defeat away to mid-table rivals, Mickleover Sports, in the Premier Division of the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League on Saturday.
After a 4-1 win at Coalville Town in midweek, Matlock were confident of making it a happy return to the Don Amott Arena for former Mickleover managers Craig Hopkins and Glenn Kirkwood, plus ex-players Liam Marsden, Jake Green, Dwayne Wiley, Marcus Dinanga and Nico de Girolamo.
But instead an own goal by Marsden put them behind from the 14th minute, and then a spot-kick blunder by Marc Newsham eight minutes later put them firmly on the back foot before the hosts bagged their killer second a minute from the break.
It all meant, in front of a crowd of 291, the continuation of Matlock’s terrible run of results at the ground, where they have lost every competitive game they have played.
Understandably unchanged from the hammering of Coalville, the Gladiators started well, enjyoing most of the posssession, so it was a real setback when Mickleover opened the scoring on their first foray forward. A right-wing cross was chested back towards Phil Barnes by ex-Mansfield Town defender Marsden, but he put too much power on it and the scrambling goalkeeper could not prevent the ball crossing the line.
The gilt-edged chance to equalise came when man-of-the-match Ted Cribley was upended in the box in full flight by home skipper and former Matlock defender, Jack Broadhead. At Coalville, Newsham had blasted in a penalty with such ferocity that it nearly burst the net. But this time, he scuffed his kick wide.
Two minutes later, Newsham was cursing again because although he diverted a shot past Mickleover ‘keeper Jake Eastwood, he was ruled offside.
It wasn’t long before more chances fell Matlock’s way as Dinanga forced Eastwood into a parried save and then fired narrowly wide from 20 yards.
However, the leveller would not come and, instead, Mickleover grabbed an undeserved two-goal cushion in the 44th minute when Andy Dales weaved his way in from the left and curled a wonderful shot to comprehensively beat the diving Barnes.
The second half was a scrappy affair. Matlock again had most of the play, but they were unable to make that possession count in terms of chance creation.
Eastwood kept out a deflected Michael Williams free-kick and, from a long throw, penalty appeals were rejected when Broadhead appeared to handle. Newsham also skewed a shot high and wide when appearing to find himself unbalanced.
Substitute de Girolamo headed inches wide in the dying moments to cap a frustrating game that saw Matlock’s winning September sequence brought to a disappointing end.
Mickleover’s player/manager, the former Republic Of Ireland international John McGrath, was instrumental in his side’s victory, organising and rallying his troops and leading by example with a host of well-timed challenges.
The Gladiators lacked the intensity of their previous four games but were still worthy of a point. It would most certainly have been a different story had the penalty gone in.
MATLOCK LINE-UP -- Barnes/ Marsden, Green, Doyle-Charles (Wilson 86), Yates, Wiley, McManus (Yates 84), Williams, Newsham, Dinanga (de Girolamo 70), Cribley. SUBS NOT USED: Travis, Jameson.
Matlock now have two home matches coming up -- against Frickley Athletic in the league tomorrow (Tuesday) night and against divisional rivals Workington in the Third Qualifying Round of the Emirates FA Cup on Saturday.