Below par Nailers scrape past the Blues
The Nailers Academy squeezed past their Staffordshire hosts with a narrow 2-1 victory at a rearranged venue at the Northwood Stadium in Stoke on Trent
In this ‘top versus bottom’ encounter, pre-match indications pointed to a comfortable Belper victory but in reality, the game turned out to be hugely different from the form book.
Whether it was the artificial pitch or the unseasonably hot conditions, Belper never really got out of first gear as passes went astray, ball control was mystifyingly absent and goal scoring attempts were simply woeful.
Josh Bullock was not too far away with an early snap shot that flew wide of the post and the same player headed over from a cross from the impressive George Dronfield, who was making his first full appearance of the season
The Nailers were not helped when goalkeeper Morgan Mighty collapsed with a leg injury following a goal kick and central defender Kyle Higton had to take his place between the posts.
A speculative Leek cross dropped onto the Belper crossbar as the hosts sensed that an upset might be on the cards and the Nailers were happy to regroup at the interval with the score line blank.
To be fair, the Belper youngsters stepped up the pace after the interval with Josh Craddock instrumental in driving them forward from midfield.
Sam Weston saw his 20 yard shot caught by the Leek ‘keeper whilst Josh Bullock sent another header skimming just over the bar as Belper’s momentum intensified.
The deadlock was finally broken just after the hour mark when Ethan Camm found space on the edge of the penalty area to send a low shot just inside the post
Substitute Scott Taylor was beginning to cause problems for the Leek rearguard and twice he worked himself into good positions only to lose his composure and fire hastily over the bar on both occasions.
But Taylor’s persistence paid off when he headed in Belper’s second goal after 82 minutes after Sam Weston’s cross found him unmarked inside the six yard box.
Just when it looked as though they would coast through to the end of the game they were undone by a calamitous piece of defending when Higton’s attempted clearance struck Leek substitute Gavin Knight and rebounded into an empty net.
The referee conjured up another generous allowance of added time but the Nailers comfortably keep the hosts at arm’s length to record another important victory in their quest for the league title.
Leek Town: Parkes, Harris, Gittens, Snape, Faulkner, Cope, Roberts, Machin, Jones, Hall, Shepherdson. Subs: Bennett, Knight, Rathoor.
Belper Town: Mighty, Rathband, Patrick, Craddock, Weston, Higton, Dronfield, Cain, Camm, Watson, Bullock. Subs: Bradbury, Taylor, Hall, Rodgers