U21s reach cup final with win over Sheffield FC
Five goal thriller sees Belper through to the NMDFL cup final
The U21s faced Sheffield FC for a place in the NMFDL final. For the first time this season there was a strong full squad to select from with 7 players having had First Team experience. This made selection for both the squad and the starting eleven extremely competitive, not easy for the players, but a great indication of the depth of talent within the Club.
Belper delivered an impressive first half. The side looked well balanced. Keeper Rathbone, the back four of Hunt, Broughton, Brumby and Butcher and defensive midfielder Barnes provided a strong and well organised defensive unit whilst midfielders Knowles and Constable provided ammunition for Birks, Bullock and Dylan Garnett. Belper looked very dangerous going forward and created a number of early chances which weren't taken, however the deadlock was broken when Dylan Garnett broke clear and from a narrow angle beat the Sheffield keeper with a fine strike. The quick passing and pace of the Belper forwards was causing constant problems and it was no surprise when Josh Bullock raced on to a fine pass from Sam Birks to give Belper a 2-0 lead at half time.
Sheffield FC threw everything at Belper after the restart but although under pressure, it was Belper who scored a third goal when Jorge Knowles bundled the ball in from close range. It seemed like the tie might be over but to their credit Sheffield pushed forward to try and get something out of the game. Belper were on the back foot and Mark Rathbone was forced into a couple of smart saves although he could do nothing to stop Mansfield pulling a goal back 10 minutes from time. This looked like a consolation goal but nerves started to jangle when Mansfield grabbed a second in injury time. However it was too little too late; the referee blew from the kick off and the U21s were in the final.
The achievement in reaching the cup final is a tribute to the whole squad as is the current league success. The strength in depth has enabled the U21s to post impressive results and performances across the whole season. The U21s can now look forward to a cup final and with three games remaining, they also have a good chance of success in the League.
Team; Rathbone, Hunt, Broughton, Brumby, Butcher, Barnes, Constable, Knowles, Bullock, Birks, Garnett. Subs. Parker, Barker, O'Keefe, Towndrow, Ilson