Ten-man Matlock battled out a Bank Holiday stalemate on Monday as visitors Buxton dropped two points in their push for a play-off place.
Easter has been reasonably good for Matlock as they battle to release themselves from relegation peril. For Buxton, it has to be a disappointing return with four points dropped against sides in the relegation picture.
Four points out of six was a good return for the Gladiators, but they would be left reflecting that had their first red card of the campaign not happened when Nicky Travis collided with Jamie Green in a high tackle on 41 minutes, they would possibly have gone on to achieve a second valuable win over the weekend.
If either side was to win over the 90 minutes, Matlock generally looked the more likely, even having a man fewer. Their late surge deserved better having comfortably dealt with Buxton’s predictable game when the visitors persisted in missing out their midfield.
In essence they failed to take advantage of their extra man and the outstanding pairing of Julian Banton and Adam Yates at the heart of the Matllock defence mopped everything up with ease.
The Bucks looked neat going forward in the opening exchanges, but it was the Gladiators who created the better opportunities.
The first came on four minutes when Otis Khan cut in from the left to fire straight at goalkeeper Aaron Jameson. Then Jameson held a well-struck Ted Cribley strike from 25 yards before Niall McManus tried his luck from even further out but was totally off target.
Buxton constantly hit a brick wall in the form of Yates and Banton and when the action switched swiftly to the other end only an outstanding diving save from Jameson kept out McManus’s diving header on 29 minutes for the one clear cut chance of the contest.
Six minutes later Jamie McDonagh drove too high before Matlock’s attacking intent was disrupted when Travis, on his full Matlock debut, saw red.
It was a borderline red / yellow card, but nevertheless the Gladiators’ first dismissal of the campaign.
Any hope the visitors, still with faint hopes of a play-off slot, had of pressing home their advantage were dispelled by a gutsy and determined showing from the hosts after the break.
Home goalkeeper Jon Kennedy was seldom troubled after holding a Greg Young header early in that second period with Buxton having to rely on long range strikes, mainly wayward, in their attempts to engineer a breakthrough.
Late on it was Buxton hanging on for the point with McManus causing headaches down the left flank. One cross was scrambled clear and when he attacked again, Scott Ludlam was fortunate not to concede a penalty with a late, rash challenge.
Matlock won the moral battle, but not the maximum points. Buxton fans will be dismayed by their team’s lack of imagination against Matlock’s ten men who outfought them but could not get the narrow win they perhaps deserved.