by Danny Bloomer
Belper Town made it three league wins on the bounce with a 2-0 victory over AFC Mansfield at the Silver X Stadium.
Second half goals from Danny South and Derry Robson, either side of an Alex Peterson red card, ensured the Nailers kept in touch with the play off places in the Evo Stick East Division.
Manager Grant Black made one change from the side that ran out 2-1 victors at Wisbech Town as Nathan Curtis replaced Piteu Crouz, who was forced to settle for a place on the substitute’s bench. Mason Coy was also named on the bench for the first time following his recent arrival from Gedling Miners Welfare.
The hosts began the encounter on the front foot and were inches away from taking the lead after six minutes when Curtis volleyed just over the bar.
Five minutes later auxiliary number nine South found himself in behind the Mansfield defence, but he saw his half volley well saved by Jason White.
After failing to make their early pressure tell, the Nailers were reduced to creating only half chances due to the away side’s deep defensive line and compact shape.
Some neat build up play involving Danny Gordon and Alfred Thompson saw the latter deliver a superb cross which just evaded the head of Peterson.
Craig Nelthorpe, who was a constant menace in the midfield throughout the game, then saw his near post cross headed just wide of his own net by Jordan Annable.
The final minutes of the first half became scrappy, partly due to the fussy nature of referee Hristo Karaivanov who didn’t allow the game to flow.
Belper, however, came out for the second period a rejuvenated team and almost broke the deadlock on 47 minutes. Gordon powered a low delivery into the penalty area which South steered goal wards, but he saw his effort cleared off the line.
South did not have to wait long for his next chance though, when Nelthorpe did well to work a yard on the left-hand side and plant a cross on the head of the striker who made no mistake in nodding past White.
The Nailers continued to create the better of the chances and Nelthorpe almost scored a goal of his own as he saw a powerful strike, which looked destined for the bottom corner, blocked on the line.
The home side should have doubled their lead on the hour mark when Robson failed to generate enough contact on his header to trouble the goalkeeper.
Belper were made to work hard for their victory when captain Peterson halted the run of Charlie Dawes down the left for his second booking of the afternoon.
Despite being down to ten men, the Nailers continued to enjoy the better of the game and went close to making it 2-0 when George Milner diverted Robson’s low cross over the bar.
Milner went close again when he pounced on a poor clearance by goalkeeper White, but his attempted lob from 40-yards out was wild.
Mansfield created their first real opportunity nine minutes from time when Oliver Fearon’s looping header was tipped over the bar at full stretch by Sebastian Malkowski.
However, just three minutes later Belper put the game beyond doubt. Milner drove at the heart of the Bulls’ defence, before finding Robson in the area who calmly finished first time into the bottom corner.
The away side almost halved the deficit in the third minute of added time when Fearon was played through on goal, but his weak finish was saved by the feet of Malkowski.
The former Polish international’s late save ensured the Nailers picked up their first clean sheet in the league since a 2-0 success at Frickley Athletic on November 17th.
Belper’s victory ensured that they kept in touch with the play off places ahead of next Saturday’s clash with tenth placed Marske United.
Belper Town: Malkowski, Thompson, Clark, Nelthorpe (Mackie 86), Peterson ©, Assenso, Robson, Gordon (Coy 89), South, Milner, Curtis (Crouz 75). Unused subs: Owen.
AFC Mansfield: White, Marsden, Annable, Lindley © (Wall 55), Lawrence (D’Laryea 80), Broadhead, Dear, Buxton, Fearon, Ward, Dawes (Ghaichem 75). Unused subs: Dudley, Crosby.
Referee: Hristo Karaivanov
by Jack Drury
Manager Grant Black hailed his side for producing “The perfect Evo-Stik performance” after Belper Town won 2-0 at the Silver X Stadium.
Second half goals from Danny South and Derry Robson saw the Nailers continue their winning streak as they defeated AFC Mansfield, and Black handed out plenty of praise for his side, who went down to ten men midway through the second half.
He said: “As far as this standard of football goes, I think we played it to a tee.”
Saturday’s victory was Belper’s third consecutive in the Evo-Stik East Division, as they looked to maintain their hunt for a play-off spot.
Welcoming AFC Mansfield to the Silver X Stadium was never going to be an easy task for the Nailers, with the visitors deep in a relegation dogfight.
With this, Black was pleased that his side performed in the right way to overcome the obstacle in front of them.
“We knew we had to be patient, we said it before the game and we said it at half time, and it was a case of not getting frustrated. They were going to have bodies behind the ball and we knew that, they’re fighting for their lives.”
“I said at half time, don’t start making wrong decisions, keep being patient and chances will come” said the manager.
The result also signifies a much welcome clean sheet for Belper. The Nailers avoided conceding in the league for the first time since November, and the improved defensive performance delighted Black.
He said: “We’ve had a settled back four for the last few weeks, which is something we’ve not been able to do for most of the season.”
“We lost a centre half [Sam Colbear] at the start of the season, then he came back and broke his ribs. Alex [Peterson] has been out with a hamstring problem, Danny [South] has been suspended, so we’ve not really had a chance to have a back four stay together for more than a week. So obviously, that helps.”
Black also believes that the side’s winning run can be key in the club’s late push for a play-off spot.
“When it gets down to the business end of the season and teams have blips, it can be all about form, and having momentum is important” said Black.
Next up for Belper is an away trip to fellow play-off hopefuls Marske United, who sit six points behind the Nailers with two games in hand.
By Jack Drury