Evo-Stik – Division One East
Stamford AFC 1, Belper Town 2
By Nigel Oldrini
For the second week running Belper Town returned with maximum points against difficult opposition, and this victory over the Daniels of Stamford rates as one of the best of the season.
With options at a premium manager Grant Black chose to keep the starting line up exactly the same as last week and he was rewarded with another excellent battling performance.
Stamford are a good footballing side but have had the unwelcome habit of losing matches after first taking the lead, and this encounter followed in similar vein.
On an excellent playing surface and with comparable off the field facilities the Nailers looked up for the task as they made a positive start to the game.
They nearly fashioned a goal in the 4th minute when Alex Peterson flicked the ball on for recently crowned Evo-Stik Division One East Young Player of the Year Piteu Crouz, but the linesman’s flag ruled out any opportunity to score.
Ollie Brown-Hill saw a well struck drive deflected for a corner kick and the only other effort from the Daniels in the opening 15 minutes was a over hit free kick from Ryan Seal.
Crouz was unlucky in the 16th minute after Liam Owen’s clever flick on fell to the young winger who, after weaving his way into the penalty area saw his shot come back of the foot of the post.
Stamford also came close to taking the lead 2 minutes later when Joe Burgess appeared to have got around Seb Malkowski in the Belper goal but thankfully Danny South was well placed to clear the ball off the line.
The Nailers looked to be negotiating their way unscathed to the half time interval, when the hosts took the lead in the 42nd minute.
Seb Malkowski failed to hang on to a Gregg Smith header and Joe Burgess snapped up the opportunity to score from close range.
The second half started well for Belper with Piteu Crouz’s 51st minute shot going straight to the former Nailers ‘keeper, Danny Haystead.
After this, Belper began to suffer some anxious moments as Stamford pressed for an equaliser.
In the 64th minute some fancy footwork along the bye line from Rob Morgan ended with Isaac Assenso tripping him and conceding a penalty kick.
A second goal would have probably dashed any hopes of Belper getting anything from the game, however Seb Malkowski more than atoned for his earlier mistake by saving brilliantly from Ollie Brown-Hills spot kick.
Daniels’ substitute Joe Boachie headed over a half chance on 75 minutes, but the last 15 minutes definitely belonged to the Nailers.
Piteu Crouz heralded a good spell for Belper when he put a shot just past the post, but the turning point arrived on 78 minutes when Danny Gordon’s tantalising 78th minute free kick was nodded just inside the post by Alex Peterson; his third goal in three games.
Peterson nearly got a second in the 86th minute after George Milner put over a great cross that the Belper striker headed just over the bar.
Substitute Nathan Curtis was introduced in the 72nd minute and no-one could have predicted the part that he would play in the Nailers victory.
The ball was played to Curtis who was just inside the penalty area on the right hand side, and as the ball bounced up he unleashed a terrific volley that flew like an arrow into the far corner giving the Daniels’ keeper no chance of saving.
It was a fantastic strike and worthy of winning any game.
Belper can’t be accused of complacency during the tail end of the season which is a credit to Grant Black and his players.
Their away form has been one of the highlights of the campaign with only two clubs having won more than the Nailers’ nine victories on the road this season.
Stamford AFC: Haystead, Armstrong, Eggington, Burgess, Cooke, Smith, Morgan, Duffy, Seal (Boachie 69), Adams (Challinor 83), Brown-Hill (Eneremadu83). Unused subs: Bloor, Peasgood.
Belper Town: Malkowski, Gordon, Clark, Robson, South, Assenso, Deacey (Curtis 72), Owen, Peterson, Milner, Crouz. Unused subs: Colbear, Boyall, Dudley.
Referee: Alistair Nelson