Gladiators ease into last 16 of cup

TJ Nightingale, Matlock Town
TJ Nightingale, Matlock Town
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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Doodson Sport League Cup

Matlock Town 4

Ben Algar 4

Ian Holmes 35

TJ Nightingale 45

Liam King 90

Mickleover Sports 1

Martin Smythe 52

Matlock Town: Jon Kennedy, Kris Witcombe, Oscar Radford, Gareth Davies, Adam Yates, James Lukic, Ben Hunter, Kris Bowler (Liam King 67), Ian Holmes, T J Nightingale, Ben Algar (Chris Bettney 46) Other sub: Micky Harcourt.

Referee: D Benton- Sheffield.

Attendance: 191

Star man: TJ Nightingale.

Matlock’s progress to the last 16 of the Doodson Sport League Cup was confirmed by-half time at the Reynolds Stadium as they hit three goals without reply.

But a sloppy second half followed as complacency appeared to set in. Thankfully, Mickleover didn’t have enough in their tank to mount what would have been a startling recovery.

Both sides were without some of their leading lights. The Gladiators left out Micky Harcourt, Liam King and Chris Bettney, who were all on the bench. Steve Warne was cup tied, having played for Belper in the competition in an earlier round.

Kris Witcombe was given a rare start at right back while Gareth Davies, Ben Hunter and Kris Bowler all started.

Matlock sprayed the ball about crisply from the first kick and were in front inside five minutes. A Davies shot was deflected wide for a corner on the right which was played short and early to Ben Algar. The winger’s swerving 20-yard shot deceived Sports goalkeeper Damien Clarke and nestled in the back of his net.

On the opposite flank, Hunter was delivering a series of tasty, teasing crosses that could have brought Town more joy. TJ Nightingale, again a willing worker, was an ace away from converting one in the 11th minute.

Oscar Radford, again with his own personal fan club cheering his every move, saw a shot flash narrowly wide two minutes later.

Sometimes thoug,h the hosts were guilty of overcooking the pot at both ends. On 16 minutes, James Lukic, on his 550th Matlock appearance, sliced a clearance which fell to Sam Wood, whose low drive beat Jon Kennedy but rebounded off the foot of the post.

Within seconds though, Matlock should have doubled their lead as Witcombe sent Ian Holmes clear with a peach of a pass but the top Gladiators’ marksman drove disappointingly against Clarke in a one-on-one duel.

Algar’s crossing was of equal quality to Hunter’s and after Nick Wood stretched to head clear one centre, a second ball from Algar was headed in brilliantly by Holmes in the 35th minute.

Clarke comfortably gathered a Nightingale shot after he had beautifully controlled Witcombe’s pass and ghosted past Wood. Then the goalkeeper did well to cut out a dangerous low cross from the right by Nightingale, who this time had left Kevin Grocott for dead.

Nightingale would not be denied though for, on the stroke of half-time, he latched onto Radford’s long pass and stroked a fine finish past Clarke and into the opposite corner to give Town a healthy half-time advantage.

Then it was something of an anti climax though as Matlock went off the boil. Possession was too easily surrendered and Sports pulled a goal back on 52 minutes thanks to an unusual error from Kennedy. He was caught in possession on the edge of his box by Martin Smythe who then had the simplest of tasks to roll the ball into a vacant net.

Matlock could not raise their game anywhere near to the heights of the opening half and a better side than Mickleover might have punished them. Even when injuries reduced Mickleover to ten men by the 75th minute, all of their permitted substitutes having been used, it was a struggle for Matlock, compared to earlier in the game.

The hoof had replaced the passing game. Bettney headed off the line after Tom Kellogg had nodded goalwards. Then Kennedy tipped a dipping Martin Farthing drive on to the bar.

But Matlock at last reasserted their authority in the closing stages. King found Nightingale, who chipped over Clarke but also inches too high. King then had two efforts charged down and Witcombe fired narrowly over the bar from long range.

But a fourth Gladiators strike came as the game reached stoppage time when King was unmarked at the back post to convert Bettney’s cross.