U21s beat Hallam on penalties in cup thriller
U21s overcome difficult pitch and missing players to progress in the Cup
The U21s travelled to the oldest pitch in the world to take on Hallam FC in the cup. It was already shaping up to be a challenging evening with the absence of a number of regular players. Laurence Constable and Jake O'Keefe still not quite fit to play, Scott Taylor and Gianluca Gandola unavailable, new signing Tom Towndroe ill and Josh Bullock injured in the previous days Academy game. Indeed at kick off, Belper only had 11 players which was increased to 12 when Kye Wood arrived later. The thin squad meant a revamped frontline with Joe Olson and Fenwick Butcher joining Sam Birks in a front three. The challenge was increased by a poor pitch on a significant slope and an older bigger opposition.
Belper started downhill. The back four of Hunt, Broughton, Brumby and Parker supported by Barnes defended with great discipline restricting Hallam to few shooting opportunities to worry Rathbone. Indeed the biggest threat looked to come from a long throw specialist. Belper tried to get the ball down and play football and created some good opportunities. Just before half time, Belper took the lead with a free kick from Butcher.
Belper expected pressure kicking uphill in the second half and this proved to be the case. Hallam went level reacting first to a loose ball following a good save from Rathbone. Shortly afterwards they went ahead with a bizarre goal as a clearance ricocheted off a player straight past the keeper into the corner. Belper didn't panic and instead started to apply pressure to the Hallam goal. This was rewarded 10 minutes before full time when Brumby steered home following a corner.
This stayed the same until full time and Belper's thin squad dug in despite tired legs to see out extra time. The tie was to be decided by penalties. Both sides scored all 5 initial penalties, Birks, Wood, Knowles, Butcher and Rathbone all scoring for Belper. Mason Barker scored his sudden death penalty and Belper were through when the next Hallam penalty hit the bar.
This was a different test of character for the U21s side as they faced full and extra time with a bare squad, penalties, a difficult pitch and strong opponents. They passed the test to go through to the next round and a Hallam FC tweet paid tribute to Belper saying that they had got the ball down, tried to play football and were the best team they'd seen there this season.
Team. Rathbone, Hunt, Broughton, Brumby, Parker, Barnes, Barker, Knowles, Birks Ilson, Butcher. Sub. Wood