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Gritty Gladiators earn replay

24 November 2012

Skipper Adam Murray’s first goal since April 2011 wasn’t enough as Mansfield Town were held to a disappointing 1-1 draw by Matlock Town at One Call Stadium.

The Stags, tepid almost throughout the entire encounter, lacked urgency against the gritty and determined Gladiators, who squandered several gilt-edge chances to cause a major cup upset.

Lewis McMahon saw his sixth-minute penalty saved by Shane Redmond, whilst substitute Brad Grayson almost found what would have been a deserved Matlock winner in stoppage-time.

Mansfield began brightly on a miserable afternoon in Nottinghamshire, as skipper Murray came close to a third-minute opener when he saw his powerful low shot deflected wide of the target.

However, Matlock were handed the opportunity to take an unlikely early lead just moments later, when John Thompson conceded a penalty after an ill-judged lunge on Phil Roe inside the area.

McMahon was given the responsibility from 12 yards, but his powerful spot-kick to Redmond’s right-hand side was palmed away by the Stags shot-stopper, who then superbly re-adjusted his body quickly enough in order to deny James Ashmore with the subsequent close-range follow-up.

Redmond also got down low to deny Massiah McDonald after the Gladiators striker skipped past Luke Jones to break clear on 12 minutes, whilst both Matt Green and Murray drilled low shots wide of goal at the other end.

Matlock, who play in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League, had to make an enforced substitution midway through the first period as six-foot-three centre-back Laurence Gaughan limped off with an injury, and was replaced by attacking right-sided winger Grayson.

And Mansfield soon capitalised on the extra space in the visitors defence, as Murray claimed his first competitive goal in 19 months, when he pounced to fire home from the edge of the six-yard box, after Louis Briscoe’s speculative 25-yard drive was fumbled into his path by Gladiators custodian Jon Kennedy.

Winger Briscoe saw his attempt from an acute angle blocked by the body of Kennedy on the half-hour mark, but despite dominating territorially against their lower-league opponents, Matlock then hit a surprise equaliser.

During an exquisite passing exchange that was more reminiscent of La Liga than the FA Trophy, McDonald and McMahon combined beautifully midway inside the Stags half, and from the edge of the area, McMahon looked up and arrowed a low-drive goalwards that nestled in the bottom right-hand corner.

Substitute Grayson threatened to fire Matlock ahead in the early moments of the second period when he broke past two defenders and got sight of goal, but his end product was disappointing and Redmond saved comfortably.

Green warmed Kennedy’s hands with a swerving right-footed drive at the other end on 50 minutes, before Ben Hutchinson flicked a header inches wide of the target following Chris Clements’s right-wing cross.

Stags boss Paul Cox introduced both Nick Wright and Jake Speight to the action, in favour of Lindon Meikle and Green respectively, as he attempted to add spark to what had become a somewhat lacklustre and tepid second period.

But it was the Gladiators who continued to look the livelier, and after Luke Jones cleared a dangerous ball through the six-yard box from Gareth Davis, the centre-back also threw his body infront of a Grayson shot in order to ensure that his side remained on level terms.

Buoyed by their impressive performance and with confidence quite evidently flowing through their veins, Matlock came even closer to finding another goal when McMahon cut inside from the left flank and drilled a low shot towards goal that forced Redmond into action.

With less than 15 minutes remaining, McDonald showed some expert footwork as he peeled away from Briscoe on the edge of the Mansfield six-yard box, though his final shot lacked accuracy and fortuitously sailed away from the target, much to the relief of their nervous counterparts.

Frustrated and agitated by their inability to cause their opponents any serious problems, Briscoe’s venomous long-range strike was deflected over the target by Matlock skipper James Lukic in the dying stages, before Jones headed wide from Clements’ subsequent set-piece delivery.

Substitute Matt Rhead bundled a late effort wide of the woodwork amidst a goalmouth scramble, whilst Briscoe also saw a low shot bravely blocked by Lukic as Mansfield heaped pressure on the Gladiators ahead of what proved to be a pulsating five minutes of stoppage-time.

It was Matlock, gritty and determined throughout, who came exceptionally close to a winner though, as Grayson reached a long-punt forward ahead of an advancing Redmond in the third minute of additional time, and his goal-bound shot had to be expertly hooked off the line by John Thompson.

The replay will take place on Tuesday 27 November (kick-off 7.45pm) at Causeway Lane.

Attendance: 1,615 (250 away supporters).

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