Evo-Stik League – Division One East
Spalding United 2, Belper Town 1
By Nigel Oldrini
Belper Town succumbed to two late goals after leading from the third minute, and while defeat was a little harsh based on the effort they put in, Spalding could also be commended for their overall team display that pushed the Nailers to the limit.
In difficult playing conditions Belper were looking to extend their winning run in the league and most of the team that lost so narrowly to Matlock Town in the Derbyshire Senior Cup in midweek were selected again, but with Isaac Assenso starting at right back.
The Tulips fielded brothers Kieran and Bradley Wells, former Belper players who had recently moved to Spalding from AFC Mansfield.
The Nailers were soon on the attack when Nathan Curtis intercepted the ball and ran through to bring a good save from from Michael Duggan, and from Danny Gordon’s resulting corner kick, Curtis met the ball with a glancing header that rested in the far corner of the net.
At this stage, and so early in the game, it looked likely that Belper would soon add to their lead, and in fact skipper Alex Peterson went close to getting a second with a flashing volley just over the bar in the 10th minute.
Belper’s dominance started to fade following Kegan Everington’s missed opportunity for Spalding on 13 minutes, after Scott Floyd had run half the length of the pitch before laying the ball into his path.
The Nailers found the conditions increasingly difficult to manage as the swirling wind and heavy pitch was totally alien to their usual passing game.
Spalding worked hard to close Belper down and at every opportunity lofted the ball forward, and as a consequence there were long spells of play where it appeared to be continuously in the air and Belper just couldn’t get the ball down and play.
Spalding’s Ben Davidson struck the ball wide of the target on the half hour mark, and Kieran Wells missed a presentable opportunity soon afterwards, but for all the threat the Tulips posed, Belper had been equal to it.
The Nailers even finished the half on a positive note by forcing two consecutive corners but couldn’t grab that all important second goal before the referee brought the half to an end.
Belper faced more of the same after the break as the hosts did their best to make life difficult for the Nailers, and with the blustery wind increasing and the onset of rain, a tough second half was in prospect.
The visitors defended well with Danny South dominant as always, and Spalding were restricted to a Ben Davidson flick that was comfortably dealt with by Leigh Overton in the Belper goal.
Eventually the Nailers began to break out of the stranglehold and as Danny South was upfield supporting a Belper attack he had a well struck effort blocked on the six yard line.
The Nailers started to master the conditions and they began to threaten the Spalding goal and as the rain swirled around the Sir Halley Stewart Playing Field, hopes were rising the they could get a second goal and claim the points.
Unfortunately it wasn’t to be as, out of the blue, the hosts scored a stunning equaliser through substitute Leon Mettam on 85 minutes who produced a perfectly executed overhead kick that looped over Leigh Overton and into the net.
A share of the points would have been a fair return but unfortunately two Belper substitutes combined to lose the game for the Nailers.
Jake Sturgess’s misplaced pass put Spalding on the attack and as Cameron Hough ran back to cover, he caught a Spalding player just inside the penalty area, and the referee immediately pointed to the penalty spot.
Leon Mettam stepped up to convert the 90th penalty kick and the expressions on the Belper players’ faces as they trooped off the field in the pouring rain, said all there was left to say.
Spalding United: Duggan, Marshall, Hugo, Floyd (Bramwell 78), Humble, Axted, Well K, Everington, Wells B, Davison, Acar (Mettam 51). Unused subs: Marshall, White, Smith.
Belper Town. Overton, Assenso, Clark, Robson, South, Peterson, Crouz (Hancock 67), Gordon, Milner, Curtis (Hough 88), Nelthorpe (Sturgess 79). Unused subs: Esmaeily, Thompson.
Referee: Mark Thomas