A new-look and improved Chasetown side fought hard for a 1-1 draw with Matlock Town at the Scholars Ground.
The Scholars welcomed back goalkeeper Lee Evans to the fold after he rejoined the club from Romulus and also gave a debut to one-time Aston Villa star and former England international Lee Hendrie who was well received by the Scholars faithful.
The game started in scrappy fashion with no clear chances at first, Hendrie firing high and wide in the seventh minute before visiting keeper Jon Kennedy punched away a corner from the right.
Matlock lost right back Micky Harcourt to injury after only ten minutes, but the visitors rallied and were close to taking the lead in the 20th minute but Mark Branch cleared Liam Wilkin’s backheel off the line. The ball stayed in the area however and Wilkin made amends seconds later with a header to put the Gladiators ahead.
Matlock could have made it a double two minutes later but Evans closed down Ian Holmes’s attack, and Chasetown continued in a scrappy and confused fashion up to half time.
The second half began in similar fashion, Lewis McMahon firing over the bar on 52 minutes before Chasetown’s first real push for goal saw Gary Birch head on a Mark Branch free kick but keeper Kennedy was able to gather, but the hosts would begin to push harder and eventually their persistent effort paid off.
On 61 minutes Courtney Pitt struck the near post with Kennedy parrying the rebound from Dean Perrow, but it was third time lucky for the Scholars as Birch was on hand to tap home the equaliser.
Birch could have made it a double four minutes later but mis-kicked Branch’s cross as the atmosphere inside the Scholars Ground suddenly came alive, Richard Teesdale then heading a corner wide before just failing to meet the target with an overhead kick following Pitt’s 74th-minute corner.
Adam Yates’ 40-yard screamer flew wide for Matlock on 77 minutes before Wilkin forced Evans into a fine save as the minutes ticked down, but no further goals were forthcoming. Even so, the second half had shown much improvement from the Scholars ahead of the visit of Buxton on Saturday (3pm).
Chasetown: Evans, Farmer, M Branch, Raglan, Turner, Teesdale (c), Lycett, Hendrie, Birch, Perrow, Pitt. Subs: Smith (Perrow 78), Quinn (Lycett 71), Archer, Hands, Slater.
Matlock: Kennedy, Harcourt, Featherstone, King (c), Yates, Gaughan, Wilkin, Riley, Holmes, McMahon, Algar. Subs: Joynes (Featherstone 92), Bettney (Holmes 36), Witcombe (Harcourt 10).
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