Matlock Town 0-1 Alfreton Town
Alfreton substitute Chris Senior struck with just three minutes left to decide a closely fought pre-season friendly which could have gone either way.
Matlock looked a well-organised unit against a Reds side who beat a Sheffield Wednesday outfit 14-0 at the Impact Arena on Sunday. A repeat of such a ridiculous scoreline never looked on. In fact, it took a mistake from Matlock, who through a flurry of late substitutions had reorganised their defence, to give Senior his opportunity.
Defences began in control and that was to continue for the vast majority of the contest. The first action of note on seven minutes was a Gareth Davies free kick that was held by goalkeeper Dan Lowson before two minutes later Liam King’s grasscutter flashed narrowly wide.
Tall marksman Drew Broughton escaped James Lukic’s attention shortly afterwards as he latched on to a through pass from Theo Streete to thread a shot beyond the far post, before Paul Clayton, one of three Reds to hit hat-tricks against Wednesday, climbed to meet Nathan Jarman’s centre, only to direct his header wide under pressure from Lukic.
The Evo-Stik Premier Division side were more than holding their own against the newly promoted Blue Square Premier visitors. A scramble in the Alfreton penalty box saw both Ryan Mallon and Chris Bettney fail to make significant contact with a bouncing ball, but the once again impressive Tyeisse Nightingale certainly did find a worthwhile connection in the 32nd minute, forcing his way into the box and firing hard and true goalwards. Lowson tipped his strike over the bar.
Half-time arrived after a flicked back header by Nathan Arnold missed the back post by a whisker.
Alfreton upped the tempo straight after the break with substitute Jamie Mullen looking dangerous down the right. But the Gladiators defence stood firm and ironically the hosts might have sneaked in front when, from a superbly weighted Bettney free kick, Simon Sturdy headed back across the six-yard box, narrowly out of the radar of Lukic.
That may have been due to a faint deflection off a Reds defender to earn a corner which saw Ryan Mallon’s piledriver charged down and Lowson hold the follow-up strike from Davies.
Clayton nodded wide at the other end soon afterwards, but Matlock came again as Lee Whittington found a narrow alley after great approach play from Lukic and Nightingale but could only prod gently at Lowson.
Senior forced a fine save from Jon Kennedy and substitute Kris Bowler met a square pass from James Knowles only to see his fierce effort blocked.
Just as a scoreless draw looked likely, Adam Yates failed to clear effectively and the ball broke to Senior, who scored Darlington’s winner in last season’s FA Trophy Final against Mansfield. A neat feint which took him past Kris Witcombe gave him space to execute a low 12-yard shot that went in off Kennedy’s left hand post.
That was tough on Matlock who made Alfreton look ordinary. Certainly the Gladiators deserved a draw at the very least.
Matlock Town; Jon Kennedy, Micky Harcourt (Ben Algar 56), Adam Yates, Liam King, Simon Sturdy (Kris Witcombe 86), James Lukic, Chris Bettney (Kris Bowler 73), Lee Whittington, Tyeisse Nightingale (Will Kendall 85), Gareth Davies (Steve Warne 65), Ryan Mallon (James Knowles 80)
Referee: M Walsh - Sheffield
Star man: Liam King.