Hednesford Town 2-0 Matlock Town
Two first half set pieces gave Hednesford a comfortable and deserved victory over the Gladiators in the visitors’ third pre-season friendly at Keys Park on Tuesday night.
The hosts, promoted from the Evo-Stik NPL last season via the play offs were dominant for most of the contest, but consolation for Matlock manager Mark Atkins and his players came from the fact that the Pitmen, who looked a better side than the one who earned promotion, could not break through a stubborn and well drilled Matlock defence from open play.
Matlock though will be disappointed with their first half display and assistant boss Nick Buxton admitted afterwards “we were never at the races”but Buxton pointed to a better second half showing when after making three half time substitutions,the Gladiators looked better going forward. However they came up against a brick wall of a Hednesford back line and goalkeeper Liam Mitchell was well protected and never seriously extended.
Martin Foster and Gareth Davies had their first opportunity in the starting eleven during the pre-season campaign which also saw trialist winger Rhys Riciardi on the left and Lavelle White on the opposite flank.
The dye was soon cast with Hednesford assuming control as they attacked down the slope quickly winning two free kicks after Jon Kennedy had done well to narrow the angle in thwarting Aaron Rey. The second dead ball delivery from Kris Taylor was narrowly wide before Rey found the sidenetting after Ben Bailey had headed back across the box.
Then another Taylor free kick was superbly tipped on to a post by Kennedy and Neil Harvey scuffed a good chance wide on 15 minutes.
In a rare moment of Matlock danger two minutes afterwards, claims for a penalty for handball by Bailey from a corner on the left were waved away but Hednesford soon attacked once again and a further spell in the ascendancy brought its reward after 27 minutes when FRANCINO FRANCIS powered a bullet like header past Kennedy after a corner on the right.
Then after a series of mistimed Matlock challenges kept the free kick count on the increase, ELLIOTT DURRELL’s magnificently curled effort doubled the lead four minutes before the interval, the ball nestling just inside Kennedy’s right hand post with unerring accuracy. There was still time for a deflected drive from the evergreen Dave McPherson to be fielded by Kennedy before referee Mr Pratt blew the half time whistle.
On came James Ashmore, Danny Holland and trialist Liam Needham at half time for Davies, White and Riciardi and Matlock looked a more solid unit.
Lewis McMahon who had toiled as a lone soldier in the opening period, fired wide from twenty yards on 51 minutes. But the Pitmen won three corners on the trot after Adam Yates had cleared a Durrell free kick before he denied the midfielder again with a fine challenge.
Matlock’s share of the play increased as the game wore on but they lacked any real penetration. Another McMahon effort could go in the ambitious category as he turned to scoop a lobbed effort well wide although it was still worth a go.
The result was perhaps predictable but Atkins will have learned a lot from the game as probably will have the players. The positives were the performances of Kennedy and the back four which had Yates skipper the side from right back, Leesley again shine in the number three shirt and David Haggerty and Oscar Radford standing firm in the centre.
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Jon Kennedy 2 Adam Yates 3 Joe Leesley 4 Martin Foster 5 David Haggerty 6 Oscar Radford 7 Corey Gregory 8 Gareth Davies 9 Rhys Riciardi 10 Lewis McMahon 11 Lavelle White Subs used: James Ashmore, Danny Holland, Liam Needham, Anthony Griffiths-Junior, Jordan Snodin, Liam Gaughan,
REFEREE: N Pratt (Staffordshire) ATTENDANCE: 200 est