Matlock’s final warm-up game ended in a disappointing 2-1 defeat at Lincoln United with the hosts grabbing their winner five minutes from time.
That was after the Gladiators had dominated the first half, missed a glut of good opportunities, but were only level at the break due to poor defending for the Lincoln equaliser.
Adam Yates had given Matlock a 25th-minute lead, which was cancelled out on 41 minutes by Jock Curran, who then scored United’s winner.
Matlock, like United, made numerous changes in the second period, and the feeling was that had the Gladiators stuck largely with their starting 11 for the vast majority of the game then the outcome would have been different.
The saving grace for Steve Kittrick’s men is that the result was not important, but their next game is the real thing when they will need to get it right.
A debut was handed to 20-year-old striker or winger Scott Smith, a loan signing from Guiseley. Otherwise the starting line-up was as expected, with Yates having his first start of the pre season campaign at right back.
The Lincoln goalkeeper, Ollie Battersby, was soon into the action, clawing away a deflected Luke Dean strike that looked bound for the net in the fourth minute.
Four minutes later Nathan Whitehead’s low drive from the edge of the box skidded narrowly wide.
Matlock had the advantage of a strong wind and this, coupled with their pressure, ought to have paid better dividends.
Curran shot wide in a rare Lincoln attack before Spencer Harris had two attempts blocked, the second executed brilliantly by Battersby after Whitehead had created the chance. From the resulting corner, Harris nodded wide when well placed.
Shortly afterwards Piteu Crouz played a neat one-two with Marcus Marshall before Battersby again saved the Whites with a fine save from Crouz’ low shot.
The goal came when Yates lifted a cross towards the far post that sailed over Battersby into the far corner of the net.
Whitehead drove too high from distance before a gilt-edged chance to double the lead fell to Luke Dean, who skied his shot over the bar from 10 yards from Smith’s run and short pass.
It came as a complete surprise when the hosts levelled, but question marks must be put against the Gladiators’ defending.
Jack Wightwick, who had earlier replaced Noel Burdett, a loanee from Scunthorpe at Matlock two seasons ago, took on the visiting defenders in a mazy run, round Jon Stewart and set up Curran to push home the easiest of chances.
The opening part of the second period was even but scrappy with neither side looking as if they could take charge.
A Matlock trialist saw a 61st-minute strike deflected wide, and the same player fired over the bar 10 minutes later after a flurry of pressure.
Battersby kept Lincoln level, saving with his feet from Jordon Cooke, but Matlock needed to show more urgency to find a winner that ultimately eluded them.
Marshall nodded wide from an 83rd-minute corner when well placed, but Lincoln made much better use of a corner of their own two minutes later.
The lively Wightwick forced the issue and again the defending was poor as Curran sneaked in to prod the low delivery past Stewart from close range.
Matlock will be wondering how they lost a game they had controlled for long periods.
It was through poor defending and not putting their chances away.
Manager Kittrick and the Matlock fans will be hoping the mistakes have all been made now, when it doesn’t cost them.
LINCOLN UNITED: 1 Ollie Battersby 2 Charlie West 3 Scott Matthews 4 Johnathan Williams 5 Michael Jacklin 6 Mark Gray 7 Noel Burdett 8 Danny North 9 Trialist 10 Jock Curran 11 Kallum Smith. Subs-all used: Harry Millard, Matt Wilson, Luke Crossley, Danny Horton, Jock Wightwick, Tommy Dunderdale
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Jon Stewart 2 Adam Yates 3 Ben Gordon 4 Luke Dean 5 James Williamson 6 Dwayne Wiley 7 Scott Smith 8 Nathan Whitehead 9 Marcus Marshall 10 Spencer Harris 11 Piteu Crouz Subs:12 Trialist 14 Jordon Cooke 15 Andrew Wright, 16 Trialist 2, 17 James Tague 18 Kenny Tarangadza-all used. 19 Niall Doran 20 Ben Morris-not used.
REFEREE: D Roberrson (Lincoln) ATTENDANCE: 100 est. BEST GLADIATOR: Ben Gordon.