Happy Matlock Town tuned up for the new season by retaining the Caroline Melbourne Cup after winning a penalty shootout against rivals Belper Town.
Although billed as a pre-season friendly, the match was often fiery, and one flashpoint in the 55th minute resulted in Matlock’s Michael Williams and Belper’s Danny South both being sent off.
But after it had finished 1-1 at the end of 90 minutes, the Gladiators took the shootout 4-2 thanks largely to exceptional saves by goalkeeper Richard Walton to foil the Nailers’ first two kicks, taken by Alex Peterson, against his former club, and substitute Nathan Curtis.
Luke Hinsley and Adam Yates converted Matlock’s first two penalties and although Jake Sturgess and Marcus Day kept Belper in it, successful kicks from Alex Hirst and former Chesterfield youngster Jack Brownell sealed things.
In front of a crowd of 250 at Belper, the home side, managed by former Belper assistant boss Grant Black, made a bright start, with chances for South and George Milner.
But Matlock took a 16th minute lead when a brilliant crossfield pass by Shaun Harrad released the speedy Jamie Jackson, whose low shot from an angle on the right nestled in the net off the far post.
The hosts equalised just after the half-hour mark when winger Piteu Crouz found room on the left to cross low for Peterson to stretch and divert home from six yards.
But Belper were then indebted to goalkeeper Max Beardsmore for two cracking saves inside a minute. First he acrobaticallly tipped over the bar a searing, rising drive from Jackson, and from the resulting corner, he dealt with Harrad’s powerpacked header in similar fashion.
Matlock made three changes at the interval and another six minutes after the restart, with one of the replacements, former Frickley and Buxton striker Hinsley, looking promising.
A rare error by Walton almost gifted Crouz the lead again for Belper. But in truth, after the red cards, neither side got going, nor created many chances.
For Belper, a header from Nathan Curtis flew wide before Matlock went closest to a winner when Louis Danquah’s measured shot rebounded off a post, with Beardsmore beaten.
BELPER TOWN LINE-UP -- Beardsmore/ Ellam, Johal, Paylor, South, Sturgess, Gordon, Nelthorpe, Peterson, Milner, Crouz. Subs: Curtis, Day, Francis, Elliott, Haig, Moody, Esmaeily, Garnett.
MATLOCK TOWN LINE-UP -- Walton/ Phillips, Green, Vince, Wiley, Yates, Williams, Marshall, Harrad, Chappell, Jackson. Subs: Nash, Dawes, Smith, Yeomans, Danquah, Hinsley, Hirst, Brownell.