U21s lose to Handsworth in League finale
Belper Town U21s lose 3-2 in tight, controversial Champions play off game
The U21s excellent run finally came to an end when they were beaten 3-2 by Handsworth in the Champions Play Off Final in controversial circumstances.
The game was played on the 3G at Eastwood, a surface that should have suited Belpers passing game however as the First Half progressed the side seemed a little overwhelmed by the occasion. Handsworth were the stronger side and played the better football.. Even so it looked as though Belper would escape and go in at the break level thanks to a couple of excellent saves by keeper Rathbone but just on the stroke of half time, Handsworth grabbed the lead.
The half time team talk and the introduction of Birks and Knowles made a huge difference and Belper emerged a different team. They looked more like the side that had won the cup final. Pinning Handsworth back they created a number of chances, Dylan Garnett seeing a shot hit the inside of the post, rolling along the line and coming out! It was the Handsworth keepers turn to make a series of excellent saves but then Handsworth added a second seizing on a poor back pass.
Belper were deservedly back in the game when Bullock finished smartly following an Evan Garnett shot and were now well on top with Knowles having an excellent chance to equalise. Handsworth appeared rattled and following a succession of unsavoury incidents, there was astonishment when a Handsworth player was only yellow carded following a headbutt.
Belper were infuriated and it seemed as though the game was put out of their reach when Handsworth scored a third, again latching on to an under hit back pass to the keeper. Belper weren’t done yet though, Knowles capped an excellent second half performance with a goal and with a few minutes remaining Evan Garnett hit the bar with a free kick. Another controversial moment finished the game as Evan appeared to equalise with the last kick of the game, running from behind two players on to a cross field ball, only to see it disallowed for offside. Handsworth had a player sent off but it was all over. For the second final in a row the opposition keeper was named man of the match, testament to the pressure Belper exerted.
The game concluded an excellent season for the U21s clinching the Southern League title and the combined League Cup. It was a difficult game but part of a learning curve for the young side. They can feel aggrieved about some of the decisions but in truth, a poor first half was their undoing. The players can take a well-deserved break and look forward to building on their success next season.
Team. Rathbone, Parker, Broughton, Brumby, Hunt, Butcher, Barnes, Constable, Garnett D, Bullock, Garnett E. Subs. Birks, Knowles, O’Keefe, Barker, Taylor