Rams are held by Nailers
By David Laughlin
Belper Town will take great comfort from this result and performance against a strong Derby County side that contained at least six players who will be involved in the squad when the Rams take on Leeds United in the opening Championship fixture of the sea
There was much pre match talk of striker Rob Hulse making an appearance and the fans weren’t disappointed as the Rams’ target man played for an hour and scored his side’s only goal, sparking predictions that he would be in the starting line up at Elland Road.
Saul Deeney, Dean Moxey, Jake Buxton, Ben Pringle and Luke Varney were also on view making the task facing the Nailers seemingly a difficult one.
Belper manager Andy Carney has the unenviable task of paring down a current squad of 20 plus to his preferred starting line up in just over two weeks, and he couldn’t have failed to have been impressed with his team’s display over the 90 minutes.
As expected, Derby held the initiative for most of the game but they found the Nailers defence in excellent form with Richard Adams and Matt Plant particularly impressive.
There was also praise for ‘keeper Danny Hancock, the Rotherham United youth team player who did his reputation a power of good with some excellent saves especially in the first half.
Rob Hulse fired a warning of intent across Belper’s goal in the 3rd minute, however no-one could have predicted that the Nailers would take the lead so soon in the game, but that is what happened.
The goal came about in the 6th minute and stemmed from a mistake by Luke Garton who misjudged his infield pass intended for Arnaud Mendy, and Chris Wood snapped up the opportunity and fired a firm shot past Saul Deeney from 10 yards.
Amazingly it could quite easily have been 2-0 in the 13th minute when Lee Thompson spotted Jon Froggatt’s run and the Belper striker lobbed the ball over the advancing Deeney and watched it drop over the cross bar.
Understandably, when the Rams had possession they looked threatening with Luke Varney was involved in most of the moves, and in the 15th minute he struck a venomous shot from the edge of the area that took a slight deflection away from goal.
It was a close call once again for the Rams two minutes later when a huge clearance from Danny Hancock set up a chase between Froggatt and Deeney, and it was the Rams ‘keeper who got there first.
Hancock drew applause from the 800 plus crowd with a brilliant stop from Rob Hulse’s 20th minute volley, but he was powerless to do anything about the equaliser five minutes later when Hulse found the far corner of the net with a header off a Luke Garton cross.
Belper found themselves with some defending to do after this as Derby stepped things up.
Luke Varney looked set to score when he ran through with just the ‘keeper to beat, and once again Hancock boosted his rapidly enhancing reputation with a great stop at Varney’s feet.
Nick Langford tried his luck with a shot from just outside the penalty area in the 34th and Hancock held on to a wickedly bouncing ball, then he stopped a fierce Varney effort on 39 minutes before completing an excellent first half showing by blocking Connor Doyle’s blast just before the whistle.
Despite the efforts from Derby in the first period Belper had also had their chances, and Lee Warriner created a great opportunity to put his name on the score sheet in the 48th minute after turning Dean Moxey and finding himself with a clear shot on goal.
Unfortunately he couldn’t do justice to the opportunity and struck the ball straight at Deeney.
Arnaud Mendy headed a 69th minute corner just wide for the Rams, but the second half didn’t produce anything like the goal mouth action of the first although this was due mainly to Belper’s excellent defensive qualities in dealing with the many crosses put over.
Dave Martin was particularly adept at this for the Rams, but he consistently failed to find any of his team mates as Adams and Plant were dominant.
Just as the game was drawing to its close Levi Ramsay found himself in a 50/50 chase for the ball with Rams’ ‘keeper Ross Atkins, but the substitute custodian prevented embarrassment for the visitors by getting there a split second earlier.
There were plenty of positives that came out in this game against high quality opposition and it is beginning to look as though Andy Carney is relishing the opportunity of being in sole charge this season.
Belper Town: Hancock; Pride (Peel, 88), Thompson, Ingall (Mirfin, 69), Adams, Plant, Warriner (Benger, 61), Harrison (Paling, 81), Froggatt (Ramsay, 54), Wood (Jenkins, 54), Rushbury (Swindells, 65). Other sub: Booker.
Derby County XI: Deeney (Atkins, 61); Garton, Mendy, Buxton, Moxey (Connolly, 61); Pringle (Abalimba, 61), Langford; Varney, Doyle (O'Brien, 75), Martin; Hulse (Hendrick, 61).
Referee: Steve COOKE (Belper)