Spirited Matlock put in a battling performance to end their goalless run at the fourth attempt on Tuesday night.
Rushall arrived at the Autoworld Arena on the cusp of the play-offs, having hit the Gladiators for six on their own patch just a month earlier, but the two points they dropped might just prove to be crucial in the final analysis and, like Matlock, see them playing Evo-Stik NPL Premier Division football next season.
The Pics will rue not making more of a first-half they controlled for long periods, putting the Gladiators on the back foot.
But despite losing full-back Micky Harcourt with a nasty leg injury in the 13th minute, the hosts dug in to secure a point thanks to Danny Holland’s late equaliser.
Rushall applied pressure immediately and following a faulty second minute clearance from Adam Yates, Ahmed Obeng cut in to drive fiercely at Jon Kennedy before the ball was scrambled clear.
Obeng had another chance on nine minutes but hooked high and wide from an acute angle before Josh Craddock was twice off target and Jack Duggan drove carelessly too high as the chances were falling to Rushall.
Matlock had decent penalty claims rejected by referee Smith who let too much go, a style which suited Rushall’s physical approach. Holland looked to be clattered in the back by Gavin Caines.
As Matlock came more into the contest, a neat turn on the right from Shaun Tuton saw his low cross flash across the penalty box before Matlock survived a scramble from a 43rd minute corner, the danger ending when Christian Dacres nodded over the bar.
But Matlock found themselves trailing when Obeng turned sweetly on the edge of the penalty area to bamboozle Ashmore and fire just inside Kennedy’s left hand post.
Matlock might have levelled eight minutes later when Tuton’s deft flick played Corey Gregory clear. The midfielder delicately lifted his finish over the advancing Chris Gemmell but the ball bounced agonisingly the wrong side of the upright.
But an unjustified lowest crowd of the season of only 166 was cheering when Tuton’s strength set up Holland who smacked a firm 12 yard drive beyond the diving Gemmell to set up a potentially explosive final 14 minutes.
It was Rushall though who came closest to all three points when James Dance’s 82nd minute free-kick was brilliantly kept out low to his left by Kennedy, before looping up against the bar and being ushered away from arm’s length.
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Matlock: 1 Jon Kennedy 2 Micky Harcourt (James Ashmore 13) 3 Joe Leesley 4 Martin Foster 5 Oscar Radford 6 Adam Yates 7 Liam Needham 8 Cecil Nyoni 9 Danny Holland 10 Shaun Tuton 11 Corey Gregory (Lavell White 63) Unused subs: Liam Gaughan, Alex Bradshaw, Matty Leese
Rushall: 1 Chris Gemmell 2 Jimmy Turner 3 Matty Wood (Zak Martin 46) 4 Jack Duggan 5 Gavin Caines 6 Josh Craddock 7 Carl Palmer (Liam Spink 37) 8 Christian Dacres 9 Karl Ashton 10 Ahmed Obeng (Stan Mugisha 90) 11 James Dance Unused subs: Sam Smith, Wayne Daniel Ref: A Smith (Castleford)
Att: 166 Best Gladiator: Oscar Radford
Report by Ian Richardson