By Danny Bloomer
Belper Town suffered back to back league defeats for the first time since January as Pickering Town ran out 2-1 winners at the Silver X Stadium.
Daniel Earl gave the visitors the lead midway through the first half, before Nailers captain Alex Peterson equalised just seven minutes later.
Joe Danby then put the Pikes in front again early in the second half and they held out to ensure Denny Ingram’s side picked up just a second win in 13 league matches.
The home side began the encounter the brighter of the two sides and almost went in front with just two minutes played. Cameron Clark’s low ball across the box found Nathan Curtis six yards out, but he saw his close ranged effort parried away by Harrison Foulkes.
George Milner then had another chance to put the Nailers in front, but he headed Danny Gordon’s front post delivery well over the bar.
Piteu Crouz was a bright spark down the left throughout the afternoon and following some neat interplay involving him and Curtis, he lashed a powerful effort from the edge of the area over the bar.
Despite Belper’s bright opening to the game, it was Pickering who broke the deadlock on 24 minutes. Stuart Mott’s raking cross field pass found Earl in behind the defence and he finished confidently past the hapless Sebastian Malkowski.
The away side were not in front for long though and with just over half an hour played the Nailers got themselves back on level terms. Danny South’s flick on landed at the feet of Peterson, who drove an excellent finish across goal and into the bottom corner.
South caused the Pickering back four more problems during the first half and he almost completed a quickfire turn around when his acrobatic over head kick was tipped over at full stretch by Foulkes.
The visitors did not allow the equaliser to affect their confidence however and they were close to taking the lead when Gordon was forced to clear Earl’s effort off the line.
Eight minutes into the second half, the Pikes did retake the lead. Niall Tillsley’s excellent cross to the back post found Danby in acres of space and he made no mistake in finding the corner with a calm finish.
Ingram’s side continued to push for that elusive third goal and they should have had it when Josh Greening cut inside Peterson, but he lacked composure with his finish and blazed well over the bar.
With just 20 minutes to play, Belper had a guilt edge opportunity to equalise for the second time. Gordon’s corner found Sam Colbear inside the six-yard box but he somehow steered his header over the bar.
Moments later, Crouz’s deflected cross found Derry Robson at the back post but his header rolled just wide of Foulkes’ goal.
Substitute Kai Hancock then almost made an instant impact from the bench, but he flicked another Crouz cross just over the cross bar.
Belper struggled to create many clear-cut chances in the final stages of the encounter and the defeat means they drop to ninth in the Evo-Stik East Division.
The Nailers travel to play-off chasing Cleethorpes Town next week as Grant Black’s side look to arrest their recent league slump.
Belper Town: Malkowski, Assenso, Clark (Owen 79), Robson, Peterson ©, Colbear, Curtis (Deacey 58), Gordon (Hancock 74), South, Milner, Crouz. Unused subs: Boyall, Dudley.
Pickering Town: Foulkes, Tillsley ©, Jacob, Barkway, Turnbull, Bissett, Earl (Davison 87), Mott, Danby (Dalton 72), Knox, Greening. Unused subs: Thompson, Brettell, Blott.
Referee: Mark Thomas
Post Match Interview with Captain Alex Peterson
By Jack Drury
Belper Town captain Alex Peterson said his side failed to match their opponents’ standards as they lost 2-1 to Pickering Town at the Silver X Stadium.
The Nailers fell to back-to-back league defeats for the first time since November as Pickering’s sharp attacking play was too much for the hosts.
Skipper Peterson had levelled the game after half an hour following Daniel Earl’s breakaway goal, before Joe Danby struck the winner for the Pikes eight minutes into the second half, and the goal scorer had strong words about the side’s performance.
“Not good enough. Nowhere near good enough for the standards we set in that changing room. We had a plan and we didn’t stick to it” said the captain.
Manager Grant Black had mentioned in his preview for the fixture how Pickering use their physical strength to their advantage, however the visitors’ intensity played a big part in where the points went.
Peterson said: “They were physical, but the desire, they had more quality on the ball, their decision making was better, it’s Evo-Stik, you get physical teams, but their desire outweighed ours.
Belper failed to capitalise on the momentum shift before half-time after they equalised, with Danny South’s acrobatic effort the closest for the hosts, before trailing again swiftly after half time.
The Nailers were without suspended Craig Nelthorpe and injured Alfred Thompson, however they will have to quickly adapt to life without the pair, as they’ll be missing Nelthorpe for three more games, and Thompson for the rest of the season.
“If they’d played today and played well, we still would’ve had seven or eight players who weren’t at it today” said Peterson. “We win as a team and lose as a team, the results gone that way because we didn’t want it enough”
With the play-offs a huge ask for Belper, the attention slowly begins to turn to next season, with the players eager to convince Black that they’re worthy of a place next season.
The skipper said “You’ve gotta have some self-pride, every player will be playing for their shirt next year. We know how Evo-Stik is, people move around and you’re not just given a shirt you’ve got to earn it.”
However, despite recent disappointment, Peterson remains optimistic in keeping the Nailers’ faint promotion hopes alive.
“There’s still 15 points to play for, and you can never say never” says the captain, “There’s always one team that sneaks in, and there’s no reason why that can’t be us.”
Belper’s next fixture is the start of a two game away schedule, as they visit Cleethorpes Town, with a win a necessity to keep their fading playoff push alive.