BELPER TOWN 1-1 MATLOCK TOWN (Belper win 5-3 on penalties)
Matlock’s final pre season friendly was anything but friendly in a feisty second half which saw two mass confrontations and the dismissals of Belper midfielder Mikey Armstrong and Gladiators skipper Laurie Wilson.
Blame for the unsavoury events in a game planned in the memory of stout Nailers fan Caroline Melbourne with a trophy to be presented to the winners, lies chiefly at Belper’s door and partly with a referee who lost control by failing to effectively deal with some abhorrent Belper tackling and an off the ball incident in which home captain Phil Watt attacked Niall McManus with a head butt and escaped any form of punishment.
That caused conflict number one, with hostilities breaking out again just two minutes later when Armstrong went in high and late on Wilson who reacted aggressively.
So both sides played the final twelve minutes with ten men, the physicality in the game not being needed, especially with the new Evo-Stik NPL season just four days away.
Matlock, with a number of injury problems, took no chances with their line up, and they made a slow, sloppy start. Belper twice went close following fiercely driven crosses from the left before Matlock created their opening chance in the 7th minute, but Anthony Griffiths-Junior was foiled by a fine challenge by Gerome Palmer. Then three minutes later Andy Todd ran on to Nico de Girolamo’s flick on from Liam Marsden’s long throw but could only shoot tamely at Dan Haystead who soon afterwards grabbed a low Ryan King strike low to his left.
After a long period of mediocrity Belper broke the deadlock on 32 minutes as former Gladiator RUBEN WIGGINS-THOMAS turned smartly and fired a low drive under Arron Jameson.
Griffiths-Junior, originally given a striking role in place of Marc Newsham, reverted to a deeper role with Niall McManus joining Jake Green in attack.
Matlock had a very justifiable penalty appeal turned down when John Guy handled in the box before headers from Dwayne Wiley and Adam Yates were narrowly off target before the interval.
Another handling offence by a home defender in the home penalty box again went unpunished immediately after the resumption before the introduction of Nicky Travis saw a marked improvement from the visitors.
Within four minutes his direct run brought a late challenge centrally twenty yards from goal and it led to Matlock’s leveller. A trademark shot by Wilson from the free kick deflected off the Belper wall and JAKE GREEN reacted quickest of anyone to guide the loose ball beyond Haystead. Three minutes later De Girolamo might have put Matlock in front but his header from a right wing corner dropped a couple of feet wide with Haystead beaten.
Then came the conflict, trouble had been brewing for a while and it should have been dealt with by the match official.
Goalmouth action was then rare as the ball was walloped about Christ Church Meadow by both sides, Matlock youngster Ben Edgson volleying an effort into the ground which bounced easily for Haystead to collect.
Belper had a 100 per cent record from their five spot kicks, McManus missed Matlock’s third attempt and this proved to be the difference.
Matlock will be hoping they emerged from battle without further harm, Belper’s approach certainly causing raised eyebrows given the status of the contest and the closeness to the serious stuff getting under way this weekend.
BELPER TOWN 1 Dan Haystead 2 Kyle Bryant 3 John Guy 4 Eric Graves 5 Gerome Palmer 6 Phil Watt 7 Mikey Armstrong 8 Johno Williams 9 Ruben Wiggins-Thomas 10 Jermaine Hollis 11 Matt Richards Subs: 12 Niall Rodney 14 Jerome Palmer 15 Rackeem Reid 16 Jack O’Brien 17 Laurence Constable 18 Louis Keenan 19 Dominic Allen 20 Mark Rtahbone (g/k) 21 Jordan Ball
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Arron Jameson 2 Liam Marsden 3 Andy Todd 4 Adam Yates 5 Dwayne Wiley 6 Nico de Girolamo 7 Ryan King 8 Laurie Wilson 9 Anthony Griffiths-Junior 10 Jake Green 11 Niall McManus Subs: 12 Nicky Tarvis 14 Jamie Yates 15 Ben Edgson 16 Tom Savage 17 Ashley Bartle
REFEREE: James King