By Ian Richardson
Hucknall Town 0
Matlock Town 5
The Gladiators comprehensively saw off their Evo-Stik NPL First Division South hosts on Saturday in their latest pre-season friendly, at Watnall Road.
Apart from a 20-minute period in the first half when Hucknall threatened to cancel out Lee Ellington’s opener, Matlock controlled the game and thoroughly deserved their victory.
James Lukic made a surprise start alongside Ryan Laight in central defence while Joe Leesley started in attack alongside Bradley Grayson, with Ryan Hindley on the right flank.
Leesley should have given Matlock the lead after just 90 seconds as home defender Corey Nightingale inadvertently headed on a Gareth Davies cross from the right, straight to Leesley who volleyed over from six yards with the goal at his mercy. Lukic then headed a Hindley free kick wide before Grayson had to be carried off with damaged ankle ligaments after falling in a heap.
That brought on Ellington, whose first touch was a golden one, glancing in another Hindley free kick in the 12th minute.
Leesley worked tirelessly and was clearly looking to score when goalkeeper Jason Fisher held a low 20-yard strike. Then, after a neat build-up in which Leesley played his part, Martin Foster fired too high, as did Leesley direct from a free kick.
Karl Slack might have punished Matlock for giving the ball away on the half hour but he shot narrowly wide and Julian Toplis did likewise after another similar error by the Gladiators.
But the Gladiators showed their opponents just how to finish when they doubled their lead on 41 minutes as Phil Roe scampered down the left and his cross had Fisher stretching, who could only palm the ball out to Hindley who belted the ball emphatically home.
Leesley then did well on the right and Ellington’s header bounced inches wide as Matlock nearly made it three by the interval.
Home full back Chris Baugh drove wide in the opening minute of the new half, which began rather quietly with Matlock content to retain possession tidily, but they went further in front with a route one goal in 61 minutes. Jon Kennedy’s huge clearance was nodded on by Leesley and, with the Hucknall defence in disarray, Ellington nipped in to guide a calm finish into the bottom corner. Hindley tried his luck with a 30-yarder which Fisher held and now it seemed a matter of how many Matlock would score.
An outstanding individual goal from Ben Algar arrived with a quarter of an hour left as the winger took on seemingly the whole of the Hucknall defence, mesmerising at least three players before stroking a low shot beyond Fisher.
Leesley then turned well only to see his shot crash off the crossbar but, with nine minutes to go, he got the goal he deserved, and it was a cracker.
Found by Hindley, he cut inside and left Fisher helpless with a terrific blast into the top corner to rival Algar’s earlier effort as goal of the game.
Ellington, looking for his hat-trick, had a shot charged down and Hindley fired a touch too high as Hucknall just wanted referee Harry Hawkins to blow the final whistle.
Matlock Town: Jon Kennedy, Kris Witcombe (Will Dennis 58), Phil Roe, Martin Foster (Ben Algar 62), Ryan Laight, James Lukic (Laurence Gaughan 55), Ryan Hindley, James Ashmore, Joe Leesley, Bradley Grayson (Lee Ellington 10), Gareth Davies.
Referee: H Hawkins (Sutton-in-Ashfield)