FC Halifax Town 2
Matlock Town 2
A REAL feeling of anti-climax descended on the Shay five minutes before the end of this game.
Just before Matlock were awarded one of the strangest penalties of the season, from which they levelled, news filtered through that Buxton had scored at Ossett Town.
Chris Ovington’s 82nd minute strike for the Bucks was enough to ensure that the title race, such as it is still a race, will continue for a few days more.
That left a successful Lee Morris spot kick to merely ensure that Town were denied the opportunity to extend their winning run to six matches.
It was frustrating, but no one should forget that Town have a further six opportunities to pick up the win they need, assuming the Bucks keep winning, to make Conference North football next season a mathematical certainty.
And they played pretty well on Saturday against a Matlock side desperate for the points in their bid to make the end of season play offs.
Lee Gregory bagged Town’s two goals while both of Matlock’s were from the penalty spot, Ross Hannah firing home in the first half.
The Shaymen could hardly have made a better start, opening the scoring after just three minutes from a move started by Gregory.
He fed it down the right for Jamie Vardy, who turned Lee Featherstone inside out before crossing deep and Danny Holland nodded down for Gregory to send it home.
Another Vardy cross was cleared by Featherstone and Tom Baker’s ball over the top found Gregory on the right but there was no one in the area to capitalise when he pulled it back to the penalty spot.
Having started so well, it was something of a shock to the system when Town found themselves pegged back after 14 minutes.
They had been troubled by a corner from the right initially, Jonathan Hedge spilling a Paul Sykes header and Aaron Hardy clearing the follow up off the line.
And when the ball was fed back into the box Hardy brought down Hannah who got up, dusted himself down and fired home to make it 1-1.
Apart from a Hannah shot that was blocked by Liam Hogan, there was precious little else from the visitors before the break.
There was plenty from Town as they looked to reassert their authority.
Simon Garner pulled the ball back from the left for Holland, who tried to place his shot and was denied by Adam Sollitt.
Moments later, Garner crossed in from the same side and Gregory connected, but not strong enough to send the ball goalwards.
Baker’s ball over the top almost released Vardy, who was denied on the edge of the area by the keeper, before the Shaymen went back in front seven minutes before the break.
Gregory did well initially and the ball eventually ended up at Vardy’s feet on the right. He crossed low on this occasion and Gregory was there to fire home from close range.
A James Knowles cross early in the second half had Hedge scrambling for a split second.
But the Shaymen were soon on the front foot and had the chances to have put the result beyond doubt before Knowles worried them again after the hour with a free kick that rebounded off the post.
Baker fired low and wide after 48 minutes, Garner and Baker combined to give Danny Lowe a crossing chance, Featherstone heading behind.
Vardy latched onto a Liam Hogan pass and turned beautifully, but the shot that followed was not as impressive.
And when Gregory escaped his marker, despite having his shirt obviously pulled, his shot from the edge of the area was deflected wide of the target.
The best chance, or to be more correct chances, came on the hour when Garner made room for himself on the edge of the area and hammered in a shot.
Sollitt could not hold on and Gregory pounced on the edge of the six yard area but Sollitt recovered well to save for a second time.
James Lukic almost turned a Vardy cross into his own net two minutes later and, after Sykes had fouled Gregory, Baker sent a free kick goalwards but Sollitt claimed at the second attempt.
Even after Knowles had hit the woodwork Town continued to be the better side with Vardy’s cross coming off the top of Gregory’s head with Scott Hogan probably better placed a yard further over.
Scott Hogan than smashed a shot from a Lowe cross flush into Featherstone’s face, a blow from which the defender took some time to recover.
Vardy’s pace took him clear of the Matlock defence with nine minutes remaining, but the keeper saved.
And when Garner fed Lowe on the left he crossed for Scott Hogan, whose header went just over the bar.
Having created, and failed to take, so many chances, it was almost inevitable that Matlock would get another opportunity and it arrived, in highly controversial circumstances, with three minutes remaining.
The majority of the crowd already knew Buxton had taken the lead, but few who saw the challenge from Baker on Liam King could believe their eyes when the referee pointed to the spot.
Morris fired home confidently and Scott Phelan’s late effort from the right could not give the Shaymen the win they craved.