TOWN made the journey back from south Nottingham in buoyant mood with a well deserved three points from a hard working, professional performance.
On a difficult surface not conducive to free flowing football, Town’s start contradicted that.
They were first to every ball and used that possession well, Nathan Kamara immediately bossing the midfield allowing both Anthony Haigh to get on the ball and start the attacks, and Danny Hull to punch holes in the Arnold defence with his forward runs.
Arnold were forced into long hopeful balls for their forwards to battle for, but Nick Jagger and Adam Wilson in the centre of the Town defence were dominant throughout.
This allowed fullbacks Tom Brown and James Sutcliffe to regularly relax from defensive duties and join in the Town attacks with Town well on top from the start.
Despite that, with 20 minutes gone Town’s only real effort on target was a shot from Danny Naidole from a Matthews’ pass which brought a save from Kearney in goal.
However, when Town started to turn the pressure into chances the cracks started to appear in the home side.
Town won a free kick 20 yards out and Sutcliffe’s low curling shot was shovelled unconvincingly round the post for a corner.
Naidole’s delivery left Kearney floundering, and was begging for someone to put their head on it, and captain Jagger duly obliged to give Town the lead.
The goal spurred Town on to dominate the rest of the half.
Another Naidole corner found Haigh at the back post who laid the ball back for Wilson to bring a close range save from Kearney.
Excellent football involving Matty Howgate and Naidole allowed Matthews to test Kearney again, and Haigh forced the defence into a desperate block.
From a rare Arnold attack they won a corner that Ben Imeson dealt with confidently and immediately got Town on the attack by feeding Howgate.
His pass saw Hull carry the ball 60 yards before pulling it back from the opposition dead ball line to Haigh who had supported well but his shot was blocked.
On 35 minutes Town made it 2-0 with an easy looking goal.
Haigh won the ball in the centre circle, looked up and saw the run of Matthews.
He played the ball precisely into his path, and Matthews, one-on-one with the keeper, coolly curled it into the corner of the net.
Arnold replied with a shot from Lyam Garner that was saved by Imeson, but the hard working Kamara struck the top of the Arnold crossbar from the edge of the box and within a minute he also shot a yard wide after more good build up from Town.
Matthews then broke away on the flank but his pass across the face of goal did not find a team mate and he was then inches away from scoring with a spectacular overhead kick.
Howgate then headed over a pinpoint cross from Sutcliffe and Town ended the half in command.
Town countered the expected second half onslaught from Arnold by tearing into the home side from the first minute after the restart.
Naidole hit a sublime cross field pass to release Howgate and with the keeper advancing outside his box he tried an audacious chip from 35yards out that only drifted wide of the target at the last second. Within a minute, Hull set up Haigh to shoot inches wide.
After that, Arnold did have a spell of territorial advantage, but most of their play ended with hopeful balls into the box that nonetheless still needed catching by the keeper and heading away by the defence, and both duties were performed as needed by the Town players.
The workrate from the whole team was top rate and it was especially pleasing to see the more attack minded players still willing to do their bit with the defensive side of the game.
Town were still managing to play good football. Ryan Brook on for the injured Kamara started a move from the back linking with Sutcliffe and finishing with a Matthews shot that was saved.
Arnold were inches away from pulling a goal back on 62 minutes when Josh Schoefield missed the far post by inches with a volley from the back post.
Almost immediately Town made it 3-0 with a fantastic team goal.
A challenge by Matthews forced Ben Imeson’s clearance to drop to Naidole.
He picked out the run of Hull with a brilliant pass. Hull played the ball into the feet of Howgate and his lay-off was smashed low into the corner of the net by Naidole, who had made up ground to finish off an excellent move.
Town replaced Matthews with Antony Brown and the youngster was a real handful for the home defence.
On 76 minutes Arnold pulled a goal back out of the blue with a good strike from Willis Frances as Town were maybe guilty of switching off thinking the game was won.
Any thoughts of a comeback were thwarted by a red card for keeper Kearney for handling outside his area on 80 minutes and indiscipline by the home side meant they had more chance of collecting bookings for niggley fouls rather than goals.
Manager Paul Quinn came off the bench to calm things down, replacing Haigh, and Imeson made a couple of saves from long range efforts from Frances and Smith without being too troubled as Town saw the game out comfortably.