Matlock’s final pre-season game ended in defeat by a hard working Rams XI who were stronger throughout.
But it proved to be a useful work out for Mark Atkins’S men just three days before the opening day of the new league season as the Matlock chief utilised the whole of his squad.
Derby had pace on the flank through Kane Richards and strength in attack through trialist Mark McNulty from Scottish side Livingston. And it was Richards who might have done better in only the second minute with a tame mistimed header from a Ben Davies free-kick.
A Joe Leesley free-kick struck the Rams’ wall after Bradley Grayson had been flattened by an over-zealous challenge from Stefan Galinski but soon it was mostly the Rams calling the tune with McNulty prominent.
A ninth minute strike was deflected a whisker wide before he forced Town goalkeeper Jon Kennedy into the first of a string of fine stops shortly afterwards.
But Matlock could, and perhaps should, have taken a 16th minute lead as a magnificent 50-yard pass from Ryan Hindley saw Grayson break clear but whip his shot beyond the far post with only goalkeeper Matts Morch to beat.
Kennedy again denied McNulty before Matlock forced four corners in quick succession. From the last one, Derby broke at pace, only for the move to come to a premature halt with a poor final pass.
McNulty, though, got the goal he richly deserved in the 25th minute. sliding home a precision angled finish as he met a cross from the left by Josh Lelan.
Young Will Dennis was having a torrid time against Richards, whose trickery again nearly paid off with a low cross which flashed dangerously across the hosts’ six-yard area. Derby always looked likely to add to their lead as Conor Doyle tested Kennedy from 30 yards, a Ben Davies free-kick curled just inches wide and Kennedy again denied McNulty with another fabulous save.
Hindley looked Matlock’s most creative player and a teasing, inviting centre just evaded Grayson who as in space in the Rams’ penalty box.
A simple but effective move saw the lead eventually doubled to minutes before half-time. Richards again as the instigator, beating Dennis and crossing lo for Finland’s Roope Riski to easily convert from close range at the far post.
The Gladiators made a raft of changes and looked a far more compact unit in the second period.
Kennedy did well to grab possession off McNulty’s bootlace before Riski missed a close range sitter on the hour. In between Joe Leesley, part of an attack-minded 4-3-3 formation, powered a path down the left and his tremendous cross only needed a touch to have Matlock back in the game.
Martin Foster drove over from 20 yards before a terrific free kick from James Ashmore halved the deficit with eight minutes remaining. Adam Yates had been chopped down some 25 yards from goal and the former Frickley and Worksop man curled an unstoppable shot past the diving Morch’s right hand.
Matlock upped the tempo but Derby held firm to win an entertaining yet competitive affair.
MATLOCK TOWN: Jon Kennedy, Will Dennis (Micky Harcourt 46), Lee Featherstone (Phil Roe 46), Gareth Davies (Martin Foster 46), Laurence Gaughan (Adam Yates 46), James Lukic (Ryan Laight 46), Ryan Hindley (Lewis McMahon 46), Kris Bowler (James Ashmore 46), Joe Leesley (Kris Bowler 68), Bradley Grayson, Ben Algar (Lee Ellington 46)
REFEREE: N Hopton (Derby)