by Ian Richardson
Matlock Town 3-2 Derby County XI
Matlock Town: Jon Kennedy, Adam Yates (Ben Turner 80), Ben Algar. Liam King, Simon Sturdy, James Lukic, Chris Bettney (Steve Warne 72), James Knowles (Ben Hunter 63), Tyeisse Nightingale (Lee Whittington 44), Kris Bowler, Ryan Mallon (Will Kendall 82). Other subs: Kris Witcombe, Aaron Stirland.
Star man: Jon Kennedy
Matlock edged home in a fantastic match against the Rams, who included four players with first team experience at the Reynolds Stadium on Monday night.
There were five goals, a host of scrapes at both ends, some top class goalkeeping from Jon Kennedy and excellent passing moves from both sides, to ensure the 554-strong crowd got value for money.
Derby’s first team players were all attackers as Theo Robinson partnered Callum Ball. On the flanks were the Pole Tomasz Cwyka and Lee Croft.
Matlock gave a trial to striker Tyeisse Nightingale, formerly with Hucknall Town, who had also had brief spells with both Alfreton Town and Eastwood Town.
And it was the trialist who gave Matlock an 11th minute lead, heading in from close range.
Nightingale was proving a handful for the young Derby defence, who nearly conceded again when Knowles turned sharply to see his drive blocked and Nightingale headed inches over.
Kennedy’s first great stop came from Robinson, who had latched on to an error by Ben Algar.
Seconds later that save or miss looked to be costly as James Lukic rose like a salmon to powerfully head in a pin point Bettney free kick.
Derby were huffing and puffing as the Gladiators held the upper hand. Setpieces were causing the visitors problems as goalkeeper James Severn had to advance off his line to meet another testing Bettney free kick.
Soon the Rams had burst into life as Kennedy saved at the double from Robinson.
But two goals in two minutes had the game dramatically all square at the interval.
Cwyka profitted from Ball’s assist to breeze beyond Lukic and crash a thumping drive home on 34 minutes.
Then midfielder Keilan Dillion’s slide rule pass dissected the rearguard leaving Robinson free to pick his spot.
Kennedy then brilliantly clawed aside a sizzling free kick from Cwyka before denying Ball.
Matlock, meanwhile, had lost Nightingale with an ankle injury.
Lee Whittington scored for Matlock on 57 minutes, with Derby again being punished from a dead ball situation.
Kennedy showed just why he once played for the England non-league side with a string of quality saves, one reminiscent of the famous Gordon Banks stop from Pele in the 1970 World Cup.
But it was only the woodwork which prevented a fourth Matlock goal late on as Steve Warne robbed Aaron Cole on the left to cut in and thud his shot against the foot of the near post.
Then Ben Hunter flashed a rising shot past the other upright.
Matlock had to work hard for their win as both sides were applauded off the field after an absorbing contest.