Emirates F A Cup – Preliminary Round
Sporting Khalsa 1, Belper Town 3 (aet)
Two extra time strikes from Nathan Curtis helped to send Belper through to the next round of the Emirates FA Cup where they meet Alvechurch at the Raygar Stadium this coming Saturday.
The Nailers found their opponents in much improved form straight from the kick off and were unrecognisable from the side that earned a very fortunate replay in the first game 10 days previously.
Sporting sit at the top of the Midland Football League currently, and the Nailers knew that this replay would be much tougher, and they also had to come to terms with the artificial surface of the excellently appointed Aspray Stadium.
There have been many noteworthy Belper Town team performances over the years and this one is right up there with the best of them.
A confident Sporting team never gave up in trying to unsettle the Nailers and it was only in the final throws of extra time that Belper finally overcame a very good Sporting side that would not look out of place in the Northern Premier South East.
Belper set the early pace with Alex Peterson having a header saved on the line and George Milner going close with a 35 yard effort that nearly caught out the Sporting ‘keeper who had strayed from his goal.
Kyle Bryant also attempted a long range shot that swerved wide in the 15th minute, however the hosts began to get into their stride and it soon became apparent how difficult the evening would be.
Leon Miles had an angled shot pushed away for a corner kick in the 25th minute and when the ball was returned to the near post following the set piece, Sporting grabbed the advantage when Dan Westwood sent a glancing header past Ryan Musselwhite into the far corner of the net.
Belper took time to recover, but once they had regained their composure, they began to put the pressure back on the hosts’ defence.
Danny South headed a corner kick back into the mix where Riece Bertram saw his header saved, while Alex Peterson volleyed the ball straight into the arms of Sam Arnold just before the break.
Belper’s need for an equaliser was clearly a priority at the start of the second period, but from open play they struggled to create clear cut opportunities.
However after winning a free kick in the 52nd minute, Craig Nelthorpe produced his trademark double shuffle routine and it was sufficient to wrong foot the Sporting defenders and Riece Bertram squeezed a stooping header in at the far post.
It was game on for the Nailers and for a while a second goal looked a formality.
Opportunities came and went; particularly in the 55th minute when Derry Robson broke through and instead of shooting, he opted to pass to a colleague but the ball was intercepted.
It was end to end stuff at this point and Sporting caused some anxious moments in the Belper defence too.
Lewis Worsley’s 67th minute free kick was struck with venom and fortunately flew straight at Ryan Musselwhite, and then Craig Nelthorpe had an equally fierce shot palmed away by the Sporting ‘keeper.
The Nailers lost some of their vigour in the final stages of normal time and Liam Armstrong had an 80th minute shot saved, before putting a header close on 90 minutes, and shaving the cross bar moments later.
The Nailers tackled extra time robustly and with no sign of fatigue, took the lead in the 112th minute after excellent work from Derry Robson who cut the ball back from the bye line where Nathan Curtis scored with a shot hit with the outside of his right foot.
Belper were full of energy and dominant in this second period of extra time and Sporting were forced into an error in the 120th minute which led to Belper’s third goal.
With the ‘keeper out of his area Josh Waldram wrestled the ball off him and moved it across the penalty area where Nathan Curtis finished brilliantly with a rising shot that beat a defender who had got back to try and stop his effort.
The reaction of fans and players said everything that needed to be said about Belper’s excellent victory against quality opposition – they now face Alvechurch in the next round.
Sporting Khalsa: Arnold, Franco, Worsey, Miles, Robinson, Woodhouse, Singh (Kinch 65), Armstrong, McKenzie (Beckley 97), Westwood (Pears 65), Williams. Unused subs: Perry, Taylor, McGrady, Whittaker.
Belper Town: Musselwhite, Bryant, Clark, Bertram (Gordon 75), South, Watt, Robson, Nelthorpe (Waldram 82), Peterson (Kozluk 90), Milner (Dawes 95), Curtis, Unused subs: Pugh, Black
Referee: Steve Durnall