• Matthew Rhodes

Dolan's strike gives Matlock FA Cup joy

Matlock Town knocked out fellow NPL Premier Division outfit Grantham Town with a 1-0 victory on a wet Saturday afternoon to reach the FA Cup third qualifying round.

It looked like the tie was going to be resolved by a nail-biting penalty shoot-out but substitute Callum Dolan had other ideas and bagged his first ever goal for the Gladiators in the 76th minute to send Matlock Town to within two victories away from the FA Cup first round proper.

The game was an extremely scrappy affair which wasn’t helped by some miserable weather conditions which the pitch did well to contain for the most part. The ball spent a lot of time in the air and Grantham’s game plan of containing Liam Hughes almost paid off with the Gladiators really struggling to produce any clear-cut chances.

It was a tough first-half for the Gladiators with Matlock struggling to impose themselves. In fact, their best effort arrived just four minutes into the game when Spencer Harris’s 25-yard effort flashed well wide of the post.

The Gingerbreads had two great chances to take the lead in the opening 45 minutes. In the 24th minute, central midfielder Ben Middleton really should have done better with a header from 12 yards out. Middleton made a surging run into the penalty area and probably had more space and time than he realised when he met a great cross from the right wing and his header flashed wide of the post.

In the 33rd minute, Remaye Campbell misdirected his attempt from just inside the penalty area after some good work down the left wing from the Gingerbreads.

Matlock’s only other attempt of note in the first half was when Reece Kendall attempted to flick the ball home from close range following an Alex Byrne cross but his effort went well wide.

The second half continued in the same vein as the first in a match that can definitely be described as not one for the purists. In fact, it threatened to be even less eventful than the first until Paul Phillips decided on a couple of inspired substitutions.

The introductions of Danny Greenfield and Dolan finally gave the Gladiators an extra dimension to their play in the final third and Matlock Town were just able to take advantage of this before a dreaded penalty shoot-out would have to take place to decide matters.

In the 74th minute, Greenfield managed Matlock’s first shot on target in the afternoon when he managed to find time and space just inside the penalty area and struck the ball hard which forced Jan Budtz into a decent save.

Matlock finally broke the deadlock though just two minutes afterwards thanks to an impressive link-up between both substitutes. Greenfield beat his man on the right wing and, instead of crossing the ball into the penalty area straight away, the loan signing from Gateshead smartly cut the ball back and passed the ball into the area towards the oncoming Dolan. From 12 yards out and with nobody close to him, Dolan confidently slotted the ball past Budtz and into the back of the net sparking wild celebrations in the dug-out area.

As expected, Matlock had to soak up a lot of pressure in the final ten minutes but the defence and Shaun Rowley passed the test with flying colours.

Grantham managed one shot on target right at the very end of the game which Rowley saved well as Matlock saw the game out.

Matlock: Rowley, Yates, Kendall, Egerton, Qualter, Lees, Byrne (Hull 83), Harris (Greenfield 59), Hughes (c), Abadaki (Dolan 64), Walker. Unused subs: Bond, Johnson, Stewart, King.

By Matthew Rhodes