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Matlock Town beat Derby County U23’s 2-1 at the Proctor Cars Stadium on Tuesday evening to make it three wins from three in their pre-season campaign.

The Gladiators fell behind early on but an excellent brace from Alex Byrne gave Matlock an impressive victory in front of a crowd of 396.

It looked like it was going to be a long evening at first when Luke Plange gave Derby’s academy team the lead after just four minutes. The young forward found space on the edge of the penalty area and slotted the ball confidently past Shaun Rowley in goal. Remarkably though, the Rams didn’t really have a meaningful attempt on goal for the rest of the game.

Despite the early setback, Matlock bullied their opposition and bossed proceedings to ultimately clinch a deserved victory. The Gladiators almost found a quick equaliser in the 11th minute when Alex Wiles managed to break free of his marker but Derby’s trialist goalkeeper rushed off his line quickly to block Wiles’s effort smartly. Six minutes later, Alex Byrne found the side netting with a rasping close range effort following a good cross from Jesurun Uchegbulam on the left wing.

After sustained pressure, the Gladiators finally found an equaliser in the 36th minute when Alex Byrne scooped his 22 yard free kick over the Derby wall and into the back of the net.

Matlock almost took the lead before the interval when Alex Wiles’s close range header in the 41st minute forced Derby’s trialist keeper into an excellent reflex stop to concede a corner.

The Derbyshire outfit’s momentum carried on into the second half and never stopped. Just four minutes after the re-start, substitute Jonathan Wafula’s 20 yard effort was deflected just wide of the post while Alex Wiles’s long range effort shortly afterwards was well saved by the Rams goalkeeper.

Centre-half Ryan Qualter thought he had given Matlock the lead in the 63rd minute when his header from a corner found the back of the net but the referee spotted a foul in the build-up and disallowed the goal. Matlock deservedly took the lead though five minutes later when Byrne found the net for the second time of the evening. The winger broke free of his marker following an excellent threaded through ball down the middle and, with just the goalkeeper to beat, Byrne cleverly dinked the ball over him and the ball rippled the back of the net.

It was expected that the Matlock defence would come under severe pressure for the final 20 minutes but that threat never materialised. If anything, the Gladiators really should have won by a larger margin.

Just two minutes after Matlock’s second goal, substitute Ross Hannah somehow missed the target from eight yards out when his glancing header flashed past the wrong side of the post. With eight minutes of the game remaining, Sam Egerton’s bullet header from a left wing delivery squeaked past the post.

In the end, it was a convincing victory for the Gladiators in what was their best pre-season performance so far. It will be intriguing to see if Matlock can maintain their pre-season momentum on Friday evening when they host League Two outfit Mansfield Town.

Matlock Town team: Rowley, Walker, Kendall, Qualter, Egerton, Lees, Byrne, Trialist, Hughes (c), Wiles, Uchegbulam. Used subs: Chippendale, Wafula, Pritchard, Lingouba, Hannah, Trialist (GK), Coppin.

Rolling substitutes allowed throughout the game.

Attendance: 396

Kade Coppin Quotes

“Really good team performance tonight. When you’re playing U23 teams, it poses a diiferent threat to what we’d get in the league. These teams tend to keep the ball better. They train every day…it was a different test to what we’ll come up against in the league. We moved the ball around well tonight. I think it got better when we moved to a back three in the second half. Our full-backs are always a threat for anyone that we play.”

“Jesurun Uchegbulam has had a really good impact at the club since joining. I actually tried to sign him for Matlock last season but obviously, with the uncertainty of what was happening with the league in regards to Covid-19, it never went through. Jesurun can play in a number ten role, out wide or as a wing-back. The players trust him. He’s someone you want to give the ball to. If you’re a paying fan, you want to watch him play. He’s got two great feet, can play down the left and on the right. He’s settled in really well, the lads like him. The fans are going to really like him. He’s young and he listens to advice. He wants to learn and he wants to be here, which is the key.”

“It’s massive to get a run of wins going, even in pre-season. Winning is a habit…we want to win at all costs, whether it’s a pre-season friendly or not. I think that desire showed today.”

“I think Mansfield Town will respect us for the game on Friday night. I’m sure they’ll have paid attention to our pre-season results so far. They’ll cause us different problems but we just need to concentrate on what we do. Ultimately, we want to get promoted; whether that’s via the league title or via the play-offs. The lads will relish the prospect of playing Mansfield on Friday. It will be a real test for them.”

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