Tension filled the Croft Park air as the Spartans took on the Gladiators, but this time it was not the Greeks against the Romans but the modern day equivalent in non-league footballing parlance.
It turned out to be a tight affair as both sides battled for crucial points, but for differing reasons. Blyth needed to extend their great run of form to keep in play-off contention while Matlock were desperate for some reward to aid their relegation battle.
The Gladiators fully deserved a point that they would possibly have settled for before the game, but they could so easily have snatched all three before Blyth rallied late on to leave Matlock hanging on for their draw.
Blyth began the stronger, creating the first chance from a Dan Maguire shot held by Jon Kennedy after a break on the left. Then an instinctive drilled cross field pass from Robbie Dale found Jarrett Rivers on the right, the winger’s low cross flashing across the penalty box.
This prompted Hume into a change with Jamie McDonagh supplementing the midfield. Matlock won two quick free kicks, the second one seeing Otis Khan slip as he shot, the ball almost apologetically trickling through to goalkeeper Nick Thomson.
Matlock increased in confidence and belief as the half wore on although clear cut chances were scarce until on 31 minutes, a Niall McManus cross from the right was met first time by Danny Holland whose instant 15 yard shot narrowly cleared the bar.
Opportunities fell to both sides within a minute in the latter stages of the half, the respective goalkeepers earning immense credit.
Jon Kennedy was down swiftly to keep out a Michael Richardson shot which was made more uncomfortable for the Town custodian by a deflection off Adam Yates. Then in an electrifyingly quick counter attack, Khan forced Thomson to acrobatically tip his shot over the bar.
The second-half was divided into two sections of dominance with Matlock bossing the opening 25 minutes before Blyth took over towards the end.
Thomson again came to his side’s rescue, flinging himself to his right to claw away a 51st minute Holland strike before McDonagh poked a reasonable chance over the bar and had another strike blocked by Parker at the expense of a corner.
The partisan 467 crowd sensed Blyth needed a lift and their encouragement worked for their side.
They won a number of corners and had a goal ruled out in the 77th minute when Richardson pushed home an assist from Ashley Davis following a free kick on the right.
Matlock defended stubbornly and at times heroically with Yates and Julian Banton again outstanding at the heart of their rearguard.
Their deserved point was virtually confirmed in stoppage time when Kennedy pulled off the save of the game to turn away Dale’s header which was destined to find the corner.
It was a solid Matlock display with Nicky Travis outstanding in midfield and Holland leading the line well. If they can sustain this performance level in their final two games, Matlock should win their survival battle.