Matlock Town 0, Alfreton Town 1
Alfreton Town substitute Chris Senior struck with just three minutes left to decide a closely-fought pre-season friendly which could have gone either way.
Matlock looked a well-organised unit against a Reds side who beat a Sheffield Wednesday XI 14-0 at the Impact Arena on Sunday.
A repeat of such a ridiculous scoreline never looked on. In fact it took a mistake from Matlock who through a flurry of late substitutions had reorganised their defence, to give Senior his opportunity.
Defences began in control and that was to continue for the vast majority of the contest.
The first action of note on seven minutes was a Gareth Davies free-kick was held by goalkeeper Dan Lowson before two minutes later Liam King’s grasscutter flashed narrowly wide.
Tall marksman Drew Broughton escaped James Lukic’s attention shortly afterwards as he latched on to a through pass from Theo Streete to thread a shot beyond the far post, before Paul Clayton, one of three reds to hit hat-tricks against Wednesday, climbed to meet Nathan Jarman’s centre, only to direct his header wide under pressure from Lukic.
The Evo-Stik Premier Division side were more than holding their own against the newly-promoted Blue Square Bet Premier visitors.
A scramble in the Alfreton penalty box saw both Ryan Mallon and Chris Bettney fail to make significant contact with a bouncing ball, but the once again impressive Tyeisse Nightingale certainly did find a worthwhile connection in the 32nd minute, forcing his way into the box and firing hard and true goalwards. Lowson tipped his strike over the bar.
Half time arrived after a flicked back header by Nathan Arnold missed the back post by a whisker.
Alfreton upped the tempo straight after the break with substitute Jamie Mullen looking dangerous down the right.
But the Gladiators defence stood firm and ironically the hosts might have sneaked in front when from a superbly weighted Bettney free-kick, Simon Sturdy headed back across the six yard box, narrowly out of the radar of Lukic. That may have been due to a faint deflection off a Reds defender to earn a corner which saw Ryan Mallon’s piledriver charged down and Lowson hold the follow up strike from Davies.
Clayton nodded wide at the other end soon afterwards, but Matlock came again as Lee Whittington found a narrow alley after great approach play from Lukic and Nightingale but could only prod gently at Lowson.
Senior forced a fine save from Jon Kennedy and substitute Kris Bowler met a square pass from James Knowles only to see his fierce effort blocked.
Just as a scoreless draw looked likely, Adam Yates failed to clear effectively and the ball broke to Senior, who scored Darlington’s winner in last season’s FA Trophy Final against Mansfield.
A neat faint which took him past Kris Witcombe gave him space to execute a low 12-yard shot that went in off Kennedy’s left hand post.
There were six former Reds in the Matlock Town ranks - Michael Harcourt, Chris Bettney, TJ Nightingale, Ryan Mallon, Steve Warne and Kris Bowler.
And another familiar face to older Alfreton fans was match referee Matt Walsh. The popular midfield man made 344 appearances for the Reds, scoring 72 goals.
The Reds complete their pre-season friendlies on Saturday when they visit Rainworth MW. Kick-off is 3pm.
Also on Saturday, Matlock travel to Belper Town.
Attendance: 316 .