Matlock Town turned in an impressive performance on Tuesday night against local rivals Alfreton to cause an upset and reach the semi-final of the Derbyshire Senior Cup.
Nathan Valentine, Marcus Marshall and James Tague scored in a 3-1 win at home over the Reds but the victory has been somewhat dwarfed by the announcement that Steve Kittrick had left the club by mutual consent less than 24 hours after the match. This breaking news will be covered in depth in a separate article.
The Gladiators made a lightning start from the blocks against their higher tier neighbours and took the lead after only four minutes. Marshall sprinted into the area and had plenty of space to attempt to slot the ball past Jordan Wright in goal. Marshall unselfishly opted to pass the ball to Tague inside the penalty area when a shot was clearly the better option. Tague did tremendously well though to shield the ball from a couple of Alfreton defenders and passed the ball to an unmarked Valentine on the edge of the area. Valentine chose precision over power and his shot went in off the post to give Matlock an early advantage and his second goal in as many games for his new club.
Matlock doubled their lead in the 19th minute when Marshall smashed home a rebound from an awkward angle after his earlier one-on-one chance was blocked by Jordan Wright. This brought Marshall’s goal tally to 12 for this season before he starts a three match suspension this coming Saturday due to the straight red card he received against Scarborough Athletic in Matlock’s previous league game.
Minus the goals, there wasn’t really much goalmouth action in the first half but Matlock impressed with how assured and comfortable they looked against a team in a higher tier than them. The Gladiators carried on their excellent performance into the second half and found a third goal early on in the 50th minute.
It was a moment that 18-year-old Tague will remember for a long time to come as he smashed in a half-volley from twelve yards out and rifled the ball past Alfreton’s keeper to score his very first goal for Matlock. It was a just reward for the teenager as he has really made the most of the recent opportunities that have come his way and played excellently in this cup tie. The youngster received a very warm ovation from the crowd when he was substituted in the 69th minute when it was clear he was becoming rather fatigued.
Alfreton pulled a goal back on the hour mark when Dominic Smith smashed the ball home from only six yards out after a surging run into the area drew Jon Stewart out of position, leaving a simple pass to a completely free Smith who practically received a goal on a plate.
Piteu Crouz had Matlock’s best chance for a fourth goal. He curled in an attempt from 18 yards out which was well tipped to safety by Jordan Wright. The Reds came very close to pulling another goal back in the last two minutes of normal time when Jon Stewart made two terrific saves from Amari Morgan-Smith and when Connor Branson blasted the ball wide of the post when he should have done much better.
Despite that very late onslaught, Matlock looked confident and comfortable for the vast majority of the match and fully deserved their cup upset and to book their place in the semi-final of the Derbyshire Senior Cup where they will play the surprise package of South Normanton Athletic at home on February 18th.
Matlock Town: Stewart, Yates (c), Wiley, Dean, Harris, Gooda, Hinsley, Valentine, Marshall (Chilaka 56), Tague (Poole 69), Scrivens (Crouz 73). Unused subs: Bramall.
Steve Kittrick Quotes
On the team’s match performance:
“I thought we played really well, I just want to take this into our league form more than anything else. I thought we played as well as what we did in the second half last Saturday…for 90 minutes, we were tremendous, played with freedom, played some good football, pleasure to watch, pleasure to be a part of and it proves what we can do.”
On whether the team performs better in cup matches because there is less pressure:
“I don’t know. I’ve said that we play better against better sides. I’ve got players that can play football and we play better against better sides and that’s just how it is. If I could put my finger on it, we wouldn’t be in the position that we’re in now in the league. I’ve said to the players just now that we’ve got to take that on to the next two league games and then go on a run and get back where we should be.”
On the upcoming league games away at Mickleover Sports and Grantham Town:
“All the league games are big at the moment and we’ve got to turn this performance into league performances and we’ll get out of where we are. We’re a good footballing side but I thought we showed the other side of it tonight, the warrior side. I want some warriors when we haven’t got the ball and I got that today. We’ve got 18, 19 games left in the league? Plenty of points to play for, we’re going to have ups and downs but the next two games are massive in the respect of just kicking us on in the league.”