Matlock Town 0 Derby County 3
By Ian Richardson
Nigel Clough sent a strong-looking Rams line-up to the Reynolds Stadium and Mark Atkins’ battling Gladiators, for the first-half at least, more than held their own against their full-time visitors.
As Matlock’s part-timers tired, Derby scored all of their goals after the interval through a Michael Jacobs penalty and a double from Theo Robinson, but there was much to admire in the hosts’ performance, particularly in the opening 40 minutes when they looked the better side and more likely to break the deadlock.
As well as Jacobs, a £300,000 buy from Northampton and Robinson, nine times on the scoresheet for Derby last season, the Rams included million pound signing Nathan Tyson, plus goalkeeper Adam Legzdins, defender James O’Connor and striker Callum Ball, all with first team experience and surprisingly most of the early running came from Matlock.
It needed an excellent save from Legzdins to keep out a header from David Haggerty to stop the Evo-Stik NPL outfit from taking a second minute lead.
With Anton Foster and Liam Needham shining in midfield, Derby struggled to find any cohesion, the latter having an effort deflected behind for a fruitless 13th minute corner.
Derby at last managed a shot on the quarter-hour mark from Robinson which was bravely and superbly blocked by Haggerty.
Matlock threatened again ten minutes later as a flowing move ended with Corey Gregory flicking a Darryl Thomas shot at Legzdins.
The Gladiators were looking solid at the back, Leesley rising effortlessly to head away a curling Jacobs free-kick.
Kennedy comfortably saved a low attempt from Bailey and Jacobs tamely nodded three yards wide before Tyson twice stung Kennedy’s hands with blistering long range shots which were too hot to handle.
The Town goalkeeper did well to deny him on both occasions, with Bailey unable to capitalise on the first loose ball and Oscar Radford calmly tidying up the second.
But four minutes after the re-start Derby went ahead as James Ashmore, occupying an unaccustomed right back slot, tangled with Jacobs in the box who rifled into the roof of the net from the penalty spot.
Inside a further three minutes Kennedy magnificently turned away a Valentin Gjokaj header before Tyson crossed low for Robinson who skied his shot high into the neighbouring car sales grounds at the Town End.
The usual plethora of substitutions were made and predictably as Derby’s grip on the game became more pronounced, the Gladiators probably subconsciously dropped deeper.
The otherwise faultless Haggerty sliced a 66th minute clearance and after ex-Nottingham Forest midfielder Josh Thomas found Ball, the cross from the left was meat and drink for the unmarked Robinson to push home.
To their credit, the non-leaguers battled bravely on only for some promising situations to end prematurely through a faulty pass and clear cut chances were sparse at both ends until Thomas centred for Robinson to net the Rams’ third in the final minute.
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Jon Kennedy 2 James Ashmore 3 Joe Leesley 4 Martin Foster 5 David Haggerty 6 Oscar Radford 7 Corey Gregory 8 Anton Foster 9 Danny Holland 10 Darryl Thomas 11 Liam Needham Subs used: Lewis McMahon, Lavelle White,Gareth Davies, Anthony Griffiths-Junior, Jordan Snodin, Liam Gaughan.
DERBY COUNTY: 1 Adam Legzdins 2 James O’Connor 3 Michael Hoganson 4 James Bailey 5 Tom Naylor 6 Valentin Gjokaj, 7 Theo Robinson 8 Nial Dawkins 9 Callum Ball,10 Nathan Tyson 11 Michael Jacobs Subs used: Andrew Dales, Josh Lelan, Sam Berry, Josh Thomas, Ayrton Wassall, Dillon Hayes.
REFEREE: Craig Grundy (Sheffield) ATTENDANCE: 590