A new league, but the same happy story for Matlock Town Juniors Gladiators U14s, who beat higher division opposition in a thrilling contest to claim the Derby City League Challenge Trophy on Saturday (14 April).
The Gladiators, who were Rowsley League and Cup double winners at U13 level last season, took the lead against Ashby Ivanhoe at Derby’s Moorways Stadium through Oliver Suett, but then had to sustain concerted pressure for much of the first half.
They also suffered a major setback when they lost winger Bobby Armshaw to a suspected broken wrist which resulted in him being taken to A&E
And when the Leicestershire side drew level and then grabbed the lead early in the second period, the Gladiators and their followers in the stands could have been forgiven for fearing the worst.
But James Birtwistle and Adam Heppenstall grabbed the middle of the park by the scruff of the neck and Heppenstall’s dogged persistence saw him drive home for 2-2.
The Gladiators had their tails up again and the introduction of Ben Crooks on the right wing helped increase the momentum as they looked to get the ball wide at every opportunity.
When Suett then restored Matlock’s lead with a precise curling shot into the bottom corner it looked like the pendulum had swung firmly in the Gladiators’ favour, but back came Ashby, beating the offside trap to draw level for a second time.
At 3-3 and with extra time looming, both sides had chances to snatch victory, but it was Billy James who popped up at the back post to half-volley the all-important fourth Matlock goal.
There was still time for Ashby to threaten and Matlock were grateful for keeper George Glossop’s bravery on more than one occasion to ensure that the silverware was secured ahead of a frantic schedule of league fixtures and, hopefully, promotion to Division One.
Matlock Town Gladiators U14, back row, from left: Craig Brentnall (coach), Keith Birtwistle (coach), Lucas Argent, Freddie Atkin, Harley Brentnall, Josh Snape, Ben Crooks, George Glossop, Oliver Suett, Joseph Lambert, Charlie Cole, Billy James, Darren Perrott (coach).
Front row: Will Lane (ball boy), Oliver Newberry, James Birtwistle, Adam Heppenstall, Oliver Hubbard, Joe Perrott. Missing from photo: Bobby Armshaw.