Matlock Town’s pre-season plans continued with victory over a strong Sheffield United side on Wednesday night.
Goals from Marc Newsham and Nico De Girolamo gave the Gladiators a two-goal lead with the Blades only having the consolation of a Nathan Thomas penalty in the closing stages to show for their efforts.
This was a cracking pre season game that was well and fairly contested with some excellent football from both sides. It was a pity only 309 fans witnessed it but they all had value for money, with the Gladiators just about deserving the victory.
The Blades put Matlock under a spell of intense pressure early on which proved to be a good test for former United goalkeeper Phil Barnes and his defenders who all emerged with flying colours.
Inside the opening couple of minutes the hosts did well to scramble the ball clear from Caolan Lavery but another opportunity did not arrive until the 14th minute when a long distance strike from Regan Slater was blocked and although Jake Wright Jnr found the net from the rebound, it was ruled out for pushing.
Soon afterwards a teasing low centre from Lavery skidded across the six yard box, narrowly evading the long sliding leg of Wright Jnr. Almost immediately afterwards Jake Bennett, signed from Mickleover Sports last season, shot against the post.
Barnes then showed some of the outstanding form from 2016/17 with a fabulous double save, getting down to turn away a Lavery effort before superbly blocking the follow up from Slater.
Gradually Matlock found their feet with Joe Doyle-Charles snapping in midfield alongside Callum Lloyd who demonstrated the usefulness of the simple pass.
Matlock’s small trialling number ten delivered a couple of testing centres from the left before Newsham pulled a shot across the face of the goal. Then a decent break by Newsham gave Town more hope, his pass being a touch out of the aforementioned trialist’s radar.
Newsham though scored a predatory 32nd minute opener, nodding Luis Rose’s cross past Jack Eastwood at the near post.
After Rose shot wide from 25 yards, Ted Cribley, a constant thorn in United’s side, could easily have doubled the lead when he intercepted a faulty pass to run clear but stroke a low shot wide with only Eastwood to beat.
Giant 16-year-old defender Sam Graham headed over from a corner at the start of the second half, but Doyle-Charles could easily have made it two when he could only poke an effort straight at the goalkeeper from close range.
Cribley set up Cleveland Taylor to volley fiercely against a defender to earn a corner from which Cribley cleverly delivered to De Girolamo who netted with a thumping 53rd minute header.
David Brooks, who had scored the winner against Chesterfield 24 hours earlier, fired comfortably off target from 30 yards as the Blades struggled to find a route back.
Matlock looked in control until substitute goalkeeper Jordan Pierrpont pulled down Harry Gilmour and Thomas netted the 80th minute spot-kick.
That signalled a late rally from the Blades, Pierrpont making up for his moment of indiscretion with a fine diving save from a 25 yard blockbuster from Jordan Hallam, but at the other end it took a fine stop from the United custodian to deny substitute Ben Edgson’s well struck shot.
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Phil Barnes (Jordan Pierrpont 77) 2 Nico De Girolamo (Trialist 64) 3 Jake Green 4 Joe Doyle-Charles 5 Adam Yates (Max Hunt 77), 6 Dwayne Wiley 7 Luis Rose (Cleveland Taylor 46) 8 Callum Lloyd (Trialist 70) 9 Marc Newsham (Rory Coleman 64) 10 Trialist 11 Ted Cribley (Ben Edgson 77)
SHEFFIELD UNITED: Jack Eastwood, Jake Bennett, Kieran Wallace, Regan Slater, Sam Graham, Jake Wright Snr, Mark Duffy, David Brooks, Caolan Lavery, Jake Wright Jnr, Nathan Thomas. Subs: Harry Warhurst, George Cantrill, Rhys Norrington-Davies, Harry Gilmour, Jordan Hallam, Tyler Smith, David Parkhouse.
REFEREE: Jamie O’Connor (Chesterfield) ATTENDANCE: 309