BetVictor Northern Premier S/East
Market Drayton Town 3, Belper Town 4
By Nigel Oldrini
Belper Town made a winning start to the 2019/20 season with an exciting away victory at Market Drayton Town last Saturday.
Two goals from Nathan Curtis, the second an absolute stunner, helped the Nailers come out on top of this roller coaster game in which Belper had to come from 3-2 down to take maximum points on a ground where they had only won once in eight previous visits.
Such was the interest in this season’s opening fixture the team coach wasn’t big enough to hold all the supporters who wanted to travel, however Belper fans were still present in considerable numbers to see their team emerge victorious.
Manager Grant Black kept faith with the team that did so well at Brighouse in their final pre-season game, however some eyebrows were raised when the team sheet showed the likes of Phil Watt, George Milner and Derry Robson on the bench, although all were to play their part in the ensuing 90 minutes.
Anticipation and expectation levels were probably at an all time high as the Nailers made a storming start to the game and winger Charlie Dawes was tormentor in chief in the early stages.
In fact Dawes was hauled down by Connor Hughes inside the penalty in the 5th minute and Zeph Thomas‘s confident conversion from the spot served only to heighten fans’ expectations even more.
However the hosts weren’t about to be rolled over that easily and gave notice that the Nailers would have to work for their victory when Ryan McClean cut through the Belper rearguard to blast a shot just wide.
Some clever play instigated by Zeph Thomas allowed Nathan Curtis to cross from the bye line, however the ball was cleared, but Market Drayton increasingly demonstrated their ability to counter attack and they were on equal terms in the 19th minute.
Again it was Ryan McClean who caused Belper problems and his fierce shot from the edge of the area was too hot for Ryan Musselwhite to handle and Harvey Howell snapped up the loose ball and made no mistake from close range.
The Nailers responded soon afterwards with a quick break and Zeph Thomas went close with a shot, however Belper survived an anxious moment on 27 minutes when a McClean free kick came back to Howell and he forced a superb reflex save from Ryan Musselwhite.
Belper steadied the ship as the half wore on and Charlie Dawes returned to prominence in the 35th minute with a run and shot that flew wide.
He was involved again two minutes later with a shot into the side netting, and Nathan Curtis was denied a goal by Ashley Rawlings, after the Belper striker’s glancing header from a Danny Gordon free kick was magnificently tipped over the cross bar.
The second period started off similarly to the first with Belper on top and within two minutes of the restart they had regained the lead.
This time Nathan Curtis had better luck with his header from Cameron Clark’s cross as it took a slight deflection as it went into the net.
Curtis might have extended the Nailers’ lead minutes later when he found himself with only the ‘keeper to beat but Rawlings made the block to deny him.
It didn’t look on the cards but Market Drayton made a stunning come back when Harvey Howell struck a pin point shot just inside the far post to bring the scores level, and within 3 minutes the hosts had taken the lead when Charlie Knowles headed in at the far post from a free kick.
Belper received a let off moments later when Knowles was allowed time and space to run into the penalty area, and his angled shot looked certain to put the Nailers further behind, but the ball came back off the post into Musselwhite’s arms.
Substitutions were made and the Nailers put their uncertain spell behind them and took the game to Market Drayton.
The Nailers were helped back into the game when a defensive misunderstanding allowed George Milner to take advantage and run through to put the ball past the advancing keeper and bring the score back to 3-3 with 9 minutes to go.
It was all Belper in the closing stages and when Nathan Curtis fired home a wonderful effort from the corner of the penalty area on 88 minutes the Nailers looked home and dry.
A dispirited Market Drayton team should have conceded more goals in the final stages as Derry Robson put a header straight at the ‘keeper and then missed the target with the goal at his mercy in added on time.
Steve McDonnell should have added to the score line just before the end but missed a great opportunity by shooting past the far post.
The Nailers showed great character to come back from the disappointment of going 3-2 down, and in the end Belper fans were able to cheer their team off the field after memorable opening day performance.
Market Drayton Town: Rawlings, Buxton, Hunter, Hughes, McMullen, Doucoupe (Beddows 61), McClean, Thomas J (Taylor85), Aziamale (James 70), Howell, Knowles. Unused subs: Sorrentino, Skelton.
Belper Town: Musselwhite, Bryant, Clark (McDonnell 77), Bertram, South, Peterson, Gordon, Nelthorpe (Robson) 73, Thomas Z (Milner 70), Curtis, Dawes Unused sub: Watt, Waldron.
Referee: Tom Bowkett