Rainworth MW 2-1 Matlock Town
Matlock’s worst pre-season performance saw them slip to a surprising defeat at Kirklington Road on Saturday.
All the goals came in the second half with two substitutes on the mark for the Wrens. Blair Anderson opened the scoring on 53 minutes with Stephen Akers converting from the spot on 88, just two minutes after Martin Foster had put Matlock level.
The consolation for Matlock is that this below-par showing came when it did, and hopefully will not be repeated when Nantwich visit the Reynolds Stadium for the league opener on Saturday.
The slick passing moves so prominent in their matches so far were missing as possession was too easily given away.
Both sides were guilty and it was a full 18 minutes before a shot worthy of note was made, when Kris Bowler’s inviting cross found Joe Leesley at the back post, the teenage striker cutting in to warm the hands of goalkeeper Joe McCormack.
Six minutes later, a flare-up involving Martin Foster and Jared Holmes led to a delay when referee Declan Bourne, in his first full season as a Contributory League referee, had difficulty restoring order.
Then Micky Harcourt claimed a penalty when brought down by Holmes. It was a decision that could have gone either way and Mr Bourne rather belatedly signalled a Matlock corner.
The hosts first attempt was a Holmes free-kick which flew harmlessly over the bar in the 34th minute before a minute later Danny Bacon found the net from a Callum Lloyd cross, but the offside flag was raised.
Matlock began the second half more positively and at last started to pass the ball about more efficiently.
Following a good spell of pressure, a Lewis McMahon volley was deflected behind before, out of the blue, the visitors found themselves behind.
Ian Holmes, leading scorer with the Gladiators last term, found himself in space on the right and his cross was fired in by Anderson, unmarked by the penalty spot.
Matlock responded as McCormack scrambled away a low effort from James Ashmore, the goalkeeper then holding a McMahon free kick.
Bowler was replaced by the pace of Bradley Grayson, who proved to be a potent threat on the right flank.
A low cross skidded dangerously across the six-yard area before he ran on to a pass from Ben Algar, only to see McCormack beat out his fiercely hit drive.
Then Algar scooped an easy chance over the bar after Grayson had set him up.
Rainworth were holding grimly on as substitute Ryan Laight’s header from a free kick on the right struck the bar and McCormack pulled off a fabulous fingertip save to push a Nathan Joynes strike over the top.
Then the goal Town deserved for their dominance arrived when Foster played an intelligent one-two with Joynes to steer his shot beyond McCormack’s dive.
But then came the sting in the tail for the Gladiators as young Will Dennis was carelessly caught in possession, the ball being swiftly played forward towards Anderson who was impeded by Jon Kennedy, the goalkeeper scarcely had to make a save all afternoon.
Akers’s power-packed spot-kick gave Rainworth the spoils on an afternoon when Matlock would rue not playing the way which had served them so well in earlier games.
Matlock Town: Jon Kennedy, Micky Harcourt (Will Dennis 59), Phil Roe (Ryan Laight 65), Martin Foster, Adam Yates, Lee Featherstone, Kris Bowler (Bradley Grayson 67), James Ashmore (Gareth Davies 81), Lee Ellington, Lewis McMahon (Ben Algar 62), Joe Leesley (Nathan Joynes 55)
Sub (not used): Kris Witcombe
Referee: D Bourne – Nottingham
Attendance: 50 est.