Josh Middleton led Wirksworth Colts U18 to a hard-fought 4-2 victory over Ripley Rangers U18 to extend their 100 per cent start to the Derby City League second division campaign.
The Wirksworth captain not only defended intelligently but scored one goal and made the next two on his return to the side.
Ripley offered Wirksworth their toughest league test yet this season although Joseph Potts was mightily unlucky not to open the scoring after the home side dominated the early stages.
When Kyle Higton’s run yielded a foul 25 yards from goal, Middleton, one of Matlock Town Academy’s most promising players, stepped up to curve his powerful free-kick into the bottom corner of the net.
An equalising goal in first-half stoppage time, following a deflected Ripley free-kick, provided a reminder that Wirksworth were going to have to dig deep for victory.
Yet they were gifted a goal in the opening seconds of the second half as the Ripley defence failed to deal with Middleton’s dangerous free-kick into the six-yard box and Olly Prince pounced for his sixth goal in three games.
Wirksworth benefited from all of their substitutions as quality players came on fresh and added to the cause, even when vice-captain Liam Smith-Vidal had to be withdrawn.
Sure enough, the lively Matt Massey made it 3-1 when he latched onto Middleton’s header down from Sam Paisley’s excellent free-kick to score from close range.
With both teams’ midfields tiring towards the end of a competitive but sporting contest, Ripley broke to make it 3-2 11 minutes from time.
But Wirksworth, with Paisley, Higton, James Simmonds and Ballington finding an extra gear to keep on top in midfield, made sure of victory when man-of-the-match Ballington crusaded down the right wing and produced an inviting cross onto which George Frost-Gilbert timed his run perfectly to volley satisfyingly high into the net for his fourth goal of the season.