Belper were beaten 3-1 at the hands of Tadcaster Albion, being made to regret a lack lustre first half which was merited by a stronger second.
Despite earning the match ball midweek, Kai Hancock started on the bench as talisman George Milner made it back into the fold. Derry Robson for Rikki Paylor was the other alteration, the latter ending an impressive run of seven starts in succession.
Before a ball was kicked, only goal difference separated Belper and their in form visitors, as all was to play for in the play-off horse race. Tadcaster hadn’t tasted defeat in five league fixtures and it was evident they hadn’t travelled to let that slip.
Belper’s backline came under the cosh in the opening exchanges and their resistance was tested by a physically imposing opposition. Prolific marksman Joe Lumsden looked to catch Leigh Overton out with a clever flicked header, the Belper ‘keeper tipping the effort over his own crossbar in acrobatic fashion.
Finally the defence buckled under the increasing pressure. A sequence of fouls committed by The Nailers finally paid the price, Billy Whitehouse capitalised from the freekick as he swiped home the opening goal for Tadcaster.
As the fouls continued to count up, Belper were subject to conceding from a set piece once more. Referee Gareth Thomas originally pointed to the spot after Craig Nelthorpe was deemed to trip Whitehouse inside the penalty area. After discussion with his officials, the decision was altered to a freekick right outside. Patrick Miller sailed an unstoppable strike past Overton who could only stand and admire.
A mammoth second half was to be asked of Grant Black’s side as they looked to save their own good fortunes in the recent times. A triple change in personnel on the half was the indicator that proceedings need to change.
Set piece specialist Miller tested the nerve of Overton, coiling his effort round the wall before the Belper shot stopper saved smartly to his right-hand side.
An inspired Belper started to kick off from the starting line, as they began to believe in their ability going forward. Hancock had three bites at the cherry as Tadcaster truly road their luck. His first try denied by a point-blank stop, the second blocked unknowingly before the post deprived the home side of a lifeline.
Searching for a comeback inevitably left Belper’s rear guide wide open and Tadcaster took advantage on the break. Peter Davidson drifted past attempted challenges to the by-line, pulling back to Lumsden who’s finish didn’t seem in doubt.
It wasn’t all misery at the Silver X Stadium, Alex Peterson going down in the penalty box following a late challenge. Crouz converted the spot kick to redeem a slice of pride from a promising second half performance.
The scoreline could have been utterly different had Belper tucked away the numerous chances they presented themselves. Danny Gordon was unfortunate not to see his head come under the cross bar, instead of against it.
Jake Sturgess was sent for an early shower after receiving two needless yellow cards as Belper ended the evening with ten men.
On another day, Grant Black’s boys could have taken points away from one of the leagues high climbers yet the they were shown that the places for promotion will not be handed on a plate.
Manager Grant Black said: “They started brighter than us, created chances and took two of them. One a very disappointing goal the other, I don’t know what the referee was doing to be honest. It’s a catalogue of errors from his point of view.
Kids taken a freekick and it’s a good freekick, but it isn’t a foul, it’s not a penalty and it isn’t a freekick. That’s a hard one to take.”
Belper travel to Frickley Athletic on Saturday the 17th of November.
Belper Town: Overton, Lucas, Clark, Gordon, Peterson, Assenso, Nelthorpe (Paylor 45), Robson, Curtis (Hancock 45), Milner (Sturgess 45), Crouz. Unused subs: Esmaiely, Hough.
Tadcaster Albion: Ingham, Barkworth (Barrett 88), Walters, Rose (Roper 86), Coates, Miller, Whitehouse (Stewart 75), Davidson, Lumsden, Howarth, Savory. Unused subs: Mycoe, Hardy.
Ref: Gareth Thomas
Photos: Tim Harrison
By Nathaniel Kay