Matlock Town’s liking for cup games was again emphasised as National League North neighbours and current holders Alfreton were beaten 3-1 in Tuesday night’s Derbyshire Senior Cup quarter-final, which handed the Gladiators a home semi-final with South Normanton Athletic.
Nathan Valentine and Marcus Marshall netted inside the opening 18 minutes to set the hosts up, James Tague netting the third four minutes into the second half.
Dominic Smith pulled one back on the hour but it was merely a consolation goal, home goalkeeper Jon Stewart making two important saves late on to ensure Matlock’s thoroughly deserved victory.
Tague, Bailey Gooda , Luke Dean and Luke Hinsley were recalled to the starting eleven after the league defeat at Scarborough, Ben Gordon, Jack Rea, Tomas Poole and Chib Chilaka dropping out. Dwayne Wiley was switched to left back, it proved to be a smart move by manager Steve Kittrick, the six foot defender having a tremendous match.
Matlock wasted little time in surging in front, breaking quickly after Stewart had knocked away a Connor Branson shot. Marshall sped down the left, Tague picking up the pieces from his cross with an incisive lay off to Valentine, who marked his home debut with his second goal in two games, threading home a low 20-yarder which beat Jordan Wright, striking a post before finding its way over the line.
Alfreton looked rattled in a disjointed performance with too many overhit passes caused by Matlock pressing high up the field and dictating proceedings.
The BetVictor Premier Division side might have had more joy in the 16th minute when Hinsley was played in down the right, his cross flashing across the box but being retrieved by Sam Scrivens whose driven centre again flew back with nobody on hand to finish off.
But Alfreton were undone again two minutes later as they fell two goals adrift. Tague, belying his tender age of eighteen, played a super pass to Marshall whose initial effort was blocked by Wright but netted from the rebound, his shot from a tight angle hitting desperate red shirted defenders on the line before finding the target.
Matlock intelligently retained possession to boss the game, their confidence being shown by a Spencer Harris shot from thirty five yards which cleared the bar. Alfreton’s best hope looked to be from a Matlock mistake with at times Matlock possibly overplaying a little deep in their own penalty box. A vital interception by Gooda stopped Alfreton from a chance of a shot before Branson nodded a Josh Clackstone cross wide shortly before the interval. The half time whistle shrilled just after a fine twenty yard through pass narrowly eluded former Red Marshall.
The second period initially showed promise for the visitors, Ryan Qualter going close with an attempt which was deflected inches wide.
But Alfreton were hit by a third Matlock goal as Luke Dean cleverly released Tague on the right, the youngster keeping his composure to finish with aplomb, shooting calmly into the bottom corner for his first Matlock goal.
Tague threatened again shortly afterwards after Wiley bulldozed his way forward from deep, releasing Tague who overran the ball, Qualter making a fine saving tackle to save Alfreton from possibly going 4-0 down.
Billy Heath’s men gave themselves a lifeline when Ben Tomlinson found room in the Gladiators penalty box to square for Dominic Smith to finish easily.
As Matlock began to tire, Alfreton increased the tempo but the hosts defended stoutly with Stewart at this point largely untroubled.
Matlock looked dangerous on the counter, Smith being well placed to head away as Hinsley threatened before home substitute Piteu Crouz forced Wright into a full length save to keep out his curling effort after a purposeful break by fellow substitute Tomas Poole.
With time quickly running out, Stewart brilliantly denied Amari Morgan Smith, Branson blasting the loose ball wide before in stoppage time Morgan Smith was again frustrated. Jude Oyibo found him in the Matlock penalty box but after cleverly beating a defender, Stewart’s body was in the way.
It proved to be too little too late by the holders who only began to play at three goals down. Once again Matlock had played well in a cup game as Alfreton could have no complaints with the outcome.
It’s now the old chestnut once again of showing similar form in the bread and butter of the league.
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Jon Stewart 2 Adam Yates 3 Dwayne Wiley 4 Luke Dean 5 Spencer Harris 6 Bailey Gooda 7 Luke Hinsley 8 Nathan Valentine 9 Marcus Marshall (12 Chib Chilaka 57) 10 James Tague (14 Tomas Poole 68) 11 Sam Scrivens (15 Piteu Crouz 74) Other sub: 16 Dan Bramall
ALFRETON TOWN: 1 Jordan Wright 2 Josh Clackstone 3 Josh Wilde( 16 Jude Oyibo 50) 4 Michael Freiter 5 Ryan Qualter 6 Connor Branson 7 Dominic Smith (14 Shane Killock 74) 8 Ben Tomlinson 9 Danny East 10 Amari Morgan-Smith 11 David Lynch (15 Bobby Johnson 50) Other subs: 12 Danny Clarke 13 Charlie Andrew
REFEREE: Danny Middleton (Heanor) ATTENDANCE: 293 BEST GLADIATOR: James Tague BEST RED: Connor Branson.