Evo-Stik Premier Division: Matlock Town 1, Buxton FC 1
BUXTON earned a useful and well-deserved point at Matlock, but the abiding memory of this Bank Holiday derby will sadly be the poor and at times bizarre display of referee Benton.
His approach altered the nature of the game and ultimately determined the outcome of what in the first half promised to become another winning Buxton away performance in a genuine footballing contest.
The referee’s issuing of three red and seven yellow cards suggests a rough-house, blood and thunder encounter, but that was far from being the case and as a result he became the constant centre of attention with both teams suffering from his judgment.
Nonetheless, Buxton supporters could feel pleased with various aspects of their team’s showing, from the early dominance that produced a goal lead, to the committed dogged and skilful defending in the half-hour period when they were a man down.
The visitors started much the brighter, earned two quick corners and then Bradley Barraclough advanced along the byline to force a third from which keeper Kennedy fumbled under pressure and the lone striker netted at close range in only the third minute.
The lead might have been doubled almost immediately as Kieran Lugsden profited from a bad mistake by Hunter to whip over a cross that Michael Towey couldn’t direct onto the target.
Matlock proved slow to settle and when they did Tommy Agus and Josh Wilde were prominent in defence, but in the 40th minute Town fashioned, then spurned, their best opening of the half as the giant Davidson’s downward header at a Warne corner gave Holmes an opportunity, but from eight yards he cleared the bar.
In response Mark Reed tested Kennedy’s agility with a 25-yard free kick, but his side’s best chance of a 2-0 interval lead fell to Lugsden from yet another threatening corner kick. His volley from ten yards was still rising as it cleared the bar.
At this stage the Buxton contingent was already visibly nettled by the apparent lack of an even-handed approach from the referee and early in the second half player-manager Maxfield, also a substitute, was dismissed from the dugout for venting his frustration.
Worse was to follow as Lugsden saw red for a challenge at the halfway line that was deemed to be dangerous and Matlock equalised almost immediately.
Ex-Silverlander Lee Morris, genuinely looking far sharper than for some time, beat Towey in a tackle then keeper Hartley at his near post with a low shot from ten yards.
The shell-shocked visitors had yet to recover when Matlock’s Ian Holmes profited from confusion between Hartley and substitute Liversidge to find the net but the goal was mysteriously ruled out.
At the other end Barraclough enjoyed an effective spell as he sought to turn the tide but was injured in a collision with Yates who from the same incident bizarrely won a highly-dubious free-kick.
Buxton, under pressure, had to defend resolutely and Grant Black got in a vital header to a dangerous right-flank cross, before the proceedings took yet another referee-induced twist.
Matlock defender Ben Hunter saw red for a challenge on Black when the referee’s attention seemed to be directed elsewhere.
Buxton now saw their chance of a late winner but it was the Gladiators who went closest to a decider with a Whittington chip over the bar and Hartley snatched the ball close to the line to prevent an own goal.
Buxton: Hartley, Black, Williams (Liversidge, 45), Agus, Wilde, Lugsden, Towey (Stevens, 60), Ridley, Baxendale, Reed, Barraclough (Banks, 74). Subs not used: Maxfield, Billard. Attendance: 693.