Published Date: 12 March 2009
Matlock Town 2-1 FC United of Manchester
In a dramatic climax which saw Ross Hannah have his penalty saved, Matlock grabbed a priceless victory when winger Jamie Jackson rifled home a last gasp winner to punish FC United for wasting their superiority and chances.
Sunday's first ever visit of the rebels to Causeway Lane attracted Matlock's first four figure gate for a league game in twenty odd years and they witnessed FC United hold the upper hand for much of the contest.
But Matlock had a steely determination about them and some fine defending, allied to some excellent goalkeeping from Paul Pettinger, did as much to secure the victory as did Dene Cropper's and Jackson's goals.
Early on in particular, the Gladiators paid their visitors too much respect and in Carlos Roca United had an attacking player of real quality.
Looking for an early breakthrough, Manchester quickly won a corner which resulted in a fiercely struck drive from midfielder Jamie Baguley being charged down.
Soon afterwards Roca broke through to fire narrowly wide and Pettinger swiftly joined his knees together to gather another Roca effort.
On 9 minutes though it was a case of third time lucky for Roca but it was also a gift of a chance for him.
Danny Wood gained possession halfway inside his own half but in trying to find Pettinger with a back pass, his ball was perfect for ROCA who calmly flicked his shot beyond the hopelessly exposed goalkeeper.
It was a suicidal start for Matlock in a game they knew they had to win.
As United continued to probe Matlock had to dig in and defend stoutly and it was a measure of the good job the back line did in that the next chance did not arrive until the 33rd minute.
When Matlock made a hash of a free kick the ball was transferred quickly towards Roca who forced Pettinger into a fine save from his low drive.
Then out of the blue, on 35 minutes, Matlock were suddenly on level terms.
Jackson found room on the right to deliver a peach of a cross which CROPPER met with a trademark downward centre forward's header into the corner past goalkeeper Sam Ashton's left hand.
Jerome Wright then crossed from the left as the visitors fought to regain the lead but Carl Lomax nodded too high before Wright himself tried his luck when he had escaped down the left again, but he pulled his shot across goal and beyond the back post.
The half ended with Jackson's electric run down the right with centre half Adam Tong making a significant and telling intervention.
Having had Hannah cautioned in the opening half, Ryan Laight soon joined him in the referee's notebook for bringing down Roca and from tyhe free kick Tong rose to power a header over the bar.
United attacked again through full back Simon Garner whose cross from the left skidded across the danger area and when United won another free kick, Pettinger did well to flick away Neil Chappell's cross.
But Pettinger could do nothing to halt Roca soon afterwards but there was a communal sigh of relief from the home support as his shot rebounded off a post.
Then came the unwelcome sight of Cropper writhing in agony on the turf and in a double substitution he was replaced by Nathan Benger with Lee Featherstone coming on for Wood who appeared to be struggling with his hamstring again.
Relief from the pressure came for Town when Hannah was pulled back and Liam King's free kick was comfortably stopped by Ashton.
The gods were smiling on Matlock and they had a let off on 82 minutes when Roca broke clear but Pettinger again saved the day standing his ground to save superbly in a one on one duel.
After substitute Papis Dieyte drove wide for United, Matlock finished the game strongly but it looked as if they had wasted a gilt edged chance two minutes from time.
Jackson drove in a cross which struck the hand of Rob Nugent and referee Scott Ledger instantly pointed to the spot.
United complained as it looked as if Nugent had little chance of getting out of the way, but they were spared temporarily as the normally ice cool Hannah looked on in anguish as Ashton superbly saved his penalty with Jackson skying the rebound high over the bar.
But Hannah had not let the miss upset him as with the match deep into stoppage time he slipped in JACKSON with a telling pass for the winger to drive low and true into the opposite corner and send the home support wild.
Jackson came off instantly to give the briefest of debuts to Adam Yates and then the final whistle blew to herald a dramatic victory for the Gladiators.
FC United will be baffled as to how they lost for they deserved a point at the very least but full credit to Matlock for continuing to fight and battle.
They will need loads more of the same in the coming weeks.
MATLOCK TOWN: Pettinger, Brough, Riley, King, Foyle, Laight, Jackson (Yates 90), Warne, Cropper (Benger 61), Hannah, Wood (Featherstone 61) Other subs: Thorpe, Buxton.
REFEREE: S Ledger (Barnsley)
STAR MAN: Paul Pettinger.