Emirates FA Cup – Third Qualifying Round
Belper Town 2, Rushall Olympic 1
Belper Town reached the heady heights of the Emirates Fourth Qualifying Round with a giant killing victory over Rushall Olympic from the BetVictor Southern League Premier Central Division.
Scenes reminiscent of Belper’s F.A Vase run over 20 years ago when they reached the semi finals were played out again as Grant Black’s men received rapturous applause as they left the field following another remarkable performance in this season’s competition.
It’s expected that much of the town will be focused on the draw that now includes teams up to National League level, and the Nailers will hope to draw a well known name or maybe a team of a similar status that gives them a better chance of progress to the First Round Proper.
Belper last reached this stage in 2008 when they met Droylsden and after seemingly doing the hard work by getting a draw at the Butcher’s Arms Ground, the Nailers lost the replay at Christchurch Meadow by the odd goal in three.
Consistency in team selection has been a key element of Belper’s success this season and so it was that the starting line up remained unchanged once again.
The Pics arrived at the Raygar Stadium currently flying high at the top of their league having amassed 20 points from their opening nine games and scoring 26 goals; easily the highest in the division.
The Nailers have shown that the status of the opposition doesn’t negatively affect them, and after a bright start to the game and employing direct tactics, the Nailers stunned Rushall by taking the lead after only 8 minutes.
Kyle Bryant provided an excellent cross to the corner of the six yard area where Alex Peterson sent a beautifully placed header over the ‘keeper and into the far corner.
The visitors’ response was muted and despite holding possession for long spells the Belper back line gave them no space in which to work.
Jonathan Letford headed a 14th minute opportunity well wide for the Pics, and then Alex Peterson had a chance to shoot in the 20th minute after Nathan Curtis picked him out with a cross from the right.
Alex Moore had a punt from 25 yards that didn’t trouble Ryan Musselwhite in the Belper goal, and a 39th minute free kick by Shaquille Whittingham flew high over the cross bar, and then the same player went on a solo run soon afterwards although his shot was deflected for a corner kick.
Belper thought that they should have had a penalty in first half added on time after Callam Mendez-Jones handled as he jumped to clear the ball; however the referee, after consulting with his assistant gave a free kick that unfortunately came to nothing.
The Nailers were worthy of the half time lead although it was expected that Rushall would improve after the break.
The Pics made tactical substitutions at half time and there was definitely a sense that the pace of the game quickened as the visitors moved the ball around with much more urgency.
Belper found themselves having to defend and when they cleared the ball, more often than not it came straight back at them again.
A goal mouth scramble in the 60th minute came out in Belper’s favour and as the Nailers tried hard to gain the initiative, they had another penalty shout turned down when Craig Nelthorpe fell in the penalty area minutes later.
Rushall grabbed an equaliser in the 69th minute after another goal mouth scramble favoured the visitors this time, and when the ball broke to Jonathan Letford, he eagerly snapped up the opportunity.
Belper changed things after this and progressively Charlie Dawes, George Milner and Sam Wright were introduced and the Nailers slowly began to turn the tables.
Riece Bertram’s header from Alex Peterson’s cross kick started confidence in the Nailers even though the effort was an easy one for Jonathan Flatt to handle.
Excitement was mounting as Belper’s long ball game was frustrating the Pics efforts in searching for a winner, and in the 80th minute Charlie Dawes sent the crowd wild when he completely outpaced the visitor’s defence to catch a tantalising pass from Danny South, and he struck the ball hard and low under the advancing ‘keeper to give what proved to be an unassailable lead for the Nailers. It was a brilliant finish from the Belper substitute who had barely been on the field for 3 minutes.
It was typically frantic cup tie stuff for the remainder of the game, which included 6 minutes of additional time and the players were justifiably treated like heroes as they received the adoration of the fans as they left the pitch at full time.
The next chapter of this amazing journey takes place on Staturday19th October.
Belper Town: Musselwhite, Bryant, Clark, Bertram, South, Watt, Robson (Wright 88), Nelthorpe (Milner 82), Peterson, Gordon, Curtis (Dawes 77). Unused subs: Kozluk, Ridley, Waldram, Thompson.
Rushall Olympic: Flatt, Mendez-Jones (Mitchell 45), Charlton (Lund 45), Smith, Clarke, Pendley, Whittingham, Moore (Whittall 54), O’Callaghan, Letford, Steele. (Unused subs: Hassan, Fryatt.
Referee: Ben Wyatt