Matlock comfortably made FA Cup progress from an entertaining local derby at the sodden DCJ Group Insurance Arena.
They did, however, come up against a spirited performance from Midland Football League underdogs Heanor Town in the 4-2 win.
The tie looked all over with the Gladiators three goals in front after only 24 minutes having also missed two gilt edged opportunities but Heanor dug in and made a game of it without seriously suggesting they would stage a miraculous recovery.
Despite conceding four goals, one of Heanor’s best performers on the day was goalkeeper Joe McCormack who started his heroics early with a point blank save from a Ted Cribley header in only the third minute, superby clawing the ball over the bar.
But the respite did not last long for the visitors as from a Cribley flag kick on the left, Heanor failed to clear their lines and Nico De Girolamo forced the ball home against his former club giving Matlock a fifth minute lead.
As Matlock poured forward they were rewarded with a second goal ten minutes later, Marc Newsham ghosting in at the near post to flick home Cribley’s cross from the right.
The tie should have been put to bed inside the following few minutes as both Marcus Dinanga and Niall McManus pulled shots wide with only McCormack to beat before Dinanga atoned for his miss as he burst effortlessly down the left to crash a stinging shot past McCormack for a three-nil lead in the 24th minute.
Fearing a thrashing Heanor increased the tempo and at last found a foothold in the game and they gave themselves hope as from a patient build up on 39 minutes, their best attacker by some distance, Kieran Debrouwer turning to fire home a deflected shot from the edge of the box.
Clearly now the next goal would be pivotal to the result and crucially it was the Gladiators who got it, Newsham rising majestically at the back post to head Liam Mardsen’s cross from the right into the top corner seven minutes into the second half.
Newsham could easily and probably should have been claiming the match ball. Shortly afterwards he headed a corner against the post and late on when unmarked six yards out, he stabbed a Cribley cross wide when it looked considerably easier to find the target.
McCormack also pulled off fine saves from an Adam Yates header and a Dinanga shot while a mazy run and cut inside from Cribley ended with Matlock’s playmaker scuffing his shot allowing McCormack to save comfortably.
Debrouwer gave Heanor a faint glimmer of hope when he steered a clever finish beyond Arron Jameson midway through the second half but the Lions were always susceptible to Matlock breaking at pace down both flanks.
Heanor, backed by a friendly and noisy support never gave up but Matlock’s extra class told on the day. The concession of the two goals was the most disappointing aspect from the Matlock point of view and yet again emphasised there is work to be done defensively.
It proved to be a happy reunion for Matlock joint bosses Glenn Kirkwood and Craig Hopkins, coach Danny Cox, and players De Girolamo and Dwayne Wiley, all overcoming their old club. A not so pleasant one for former Matlock striker Nayhan Benger and defender Keenan Layton who was with Matlock during the pre-season.
The important factor at the end of the day for Matlock was avoiding the banana skin that a potentially tricky tie presented. They did it with relative comfort but with room for improvement.
Matlock: Jameson, Marsden, Wiley (Grifiths-Junior 77), Doyle-Charles, Yates, de Girolamo, McManus (Yates 89), Williams, Newsham, Dinanga (Green 71), Cribley. Subs not used: King, Travis.
Heanor: McCormack, Marriott, Layton, Brown (Harris 46), Hall, Lynch, Clarke (Reeves 54), Naylor, Benger, Debrouwer, Wilkinson (Naylor 70). Subs not used: Andrews, Foster, Addollahi, Tyrell.
Referee: Barry Lamb.
Best Gladiator: Ted Cribley.
Best Lion: Joe McCormack.