Minnesota Town ended up 0-3 winners at the Autoworld Arena on Monday night against Matlock Town but 358 fans witnessed a fine friendly game of football that could have gone either way.
As far as the American visitors were concerned it was probably just the competitive work out they needed before their season gets under way next month.
The Gladiators, despite having selfish reasons of their own domestically, certainly gave the Loons a severe test and a three goal defeat did not do their performance justice.
But any doubts fans might have had of not getting their money’s worth were quickly dispelled.
It seemed like a usual league encounter given the challenges and tussles that ensued, and at times it wasn’t an environment for the faint hearted.
Matlock made James Lukic captain, a wonderful gesture, and given the way Lukic was dictating to his defence, one that was totally justified.
Matlock have been magnificent defensively this term, but hearing Lukic talking and cajoling his team mates was still music to the ears of fans looking on.
Darryl Thomas had a 19th minute strike ruled out through offside in a competitive opening which then saw Jon Kennedy save an effort from Christian Ramirez.
Identical efforts from Minnesota’s Juliano Vincentini and the `Gladiators Shaun Tuton finished in the opposing goalkeepers’ grasp.
Then Tuton, again Matlock’s livewire going forward, broke forward on the right to fire over the bar before a Corey Gregory free kick was equally close to providing the Gladiators with a breakthrough.
Goalkeeper Matt Van Oekel pulled off a splendid diving stop to deny Tuton but that was swiftly followed by Kennedy being relieved to see a good strike from Miguel Ibarra narrowly clear the bar.
It looked as if the half would finish scoreless until on 43 minutes a piece of magic from Christian Ramirez, with a superbly executed shot which comprehensively beat Kennedy to his right, despite a fine attempt by the home custodian to keep it out, gave the Americans the edge.
Straight after the interval Matlock could have equalized when Tuton forced his way through the visiting defence in typical fashion only to fire over the bar.
On the odd occasion there was handbags at six paces, which was sensibly judged by Chesterfield referee Alix Pashley who will officiate in the Derbyshire Senior Cup Final later in the campaign.
Christiano Diaz doubled the Loons advantage on 66 minutes before a wicked deflection saw Nate Polak’s long range drive defeat substitute goalkeeper Matty Leese with six minutes to go.
But all in all it had been an entertaining night’s football, or soccer, depending on where you come from, and a friendship secured on both sides of the Atlantic.
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Jon Kennedy (17 Matty Leese 65) 2 Adam Yates 3 Joe Leesley 4 Martin Foster (12 Cecil Nyoni 46) 5 David Haggerty 6 James Lukic (Matty Wilkinson 63)K 7 Liam Needham 8 Corey Gregory 9 Darryl Thomas (14 Alex Bradshaw 74) 10 Shaun Tuton 11 Lavell White Other subs: 12 Danny Holland 18 James Travis
MINNESOTA UTD: 30 Matt Van Okel 22 Kevin Venegas 5 Tiago Calvano 4 Aaron Pitchkolan 2 Justin Davis 77 Juliano Vicenti 13 Takada Kentaro 7 Simone Bracalello 10 Miguel Ibarro 21 Christian Ramirez 9 Pablo Campas Subs: 27 Brent Kallman 1 Mitch Hilderbran 17 Pitman 14 Brian Kallman 8 Michael Reed 6 Mozzi Gyoria 3 Christian Dias 25 Nate Polak 32 tyler Polak 36 Greg Jordan 17 JP Pittman
REFEREE: A Pashley (Chesterfield) ATTENDANCE: 358 BEST GLADIATOR: Shaun Tuton.