Honours even in Derwent Valley derby
By David Laughlin
Belper Town faced Matlock Town in their final home pre-season game and looked to build on their impressive result in midweek when they drew 1-1 against a strong Derby County XI.
With six players either injured or on holiday manager Andy Carney still had seventeen players at his disposal as he continued his search for his best starting eleven.
Ryan Booker, Nathan Benger and Russell Peel were given starts against the Gladiators and with just one pre season game left to play after this one, time was running out for some players who had yet to push themselves into Andy Carney’s reckoning.
It was a low key start with both sides unable to keep the ball for more than two or three passes, and although the visitors began strongly it was they that tended to suffer most from this failing.
Zeke Jenkins provided one of the best passes in this period and sent Ross Hannah away down the left channel however the Matlock striker’s cross was well defended.
The game continued uneventfully until Liam King crashed into Russell Peel on the edge of the penalty area, however Nathan Benger’s free kick got no further than the defensive wall.
Ross Hannah fired in an effort on 15 minutes that Danny Hancock took cleanly but the visitors suffered a blow five minutes later when Adam Sollitt was forced to leave the field with a back injury, and was replaced by striker Dene Cropper.
Matlock produced the best move of the half in the 29th minute when Steve Warne crossed into the six yard and James Knowles headed the ball just over the crossbar.
Knowles went close again two minutes later when he toe poked the ball from the edge of the six yard area, but Danny Hancock, who has impressed in every game he has played, dived to push it around the post.
Russell Peel looked to have been tripped as he raced into the penalty area in the 34th minute, but there was no reaction from the referee, then at the other end Hancock was in action again when he saved a Ross Hannah shot at full stretch.
While the Gladiators probably held the initiative for much of the first half it was the Nailers who held the lead at half time.
They were awarded a free kick on the edge of the area after Jon Froggatt had been impeded and the resulting free kick taken by Lee Thompson took a decisive deflection off Ross Hannah and flew into the net past a rooted Dene Cropper.
Nathan Swindells, on as a half time substitute hit a low drive just past the post from 20 yards just after the restart, although the second period produced much less in the way of goal mouth action because the two teams cancelled each other out in most areas of the park.
The Nailers had to defend a series of corner kicks either side of the hour mark and all credit due to Richard Adams and Matt Plant who enhanced their reputations as central defenders with dominant performances.
Swindells showed good skills in the 63rd minute and just failed to set up Froggatt with a shooting opportunity and seconds later Andy Rushbury, enjoying himself in his central midfield role, crossed for Swindells to head just wide.
Just as it seemed that Belper would see the game out with a victory, a rare moment’s lack of concentration allowed the Gladiators an equaliser in the 83rd minute.
A quickly taken corner kick by Danny Wood found Ben Algar on the corner of the penalty area and he despatched a crisply hit shot that beat Hancock at his near post.
Nathan Swindells might have regained the lead just before the end of the game but quick thinking from Wood saw him take the ball of the Belper striker’s toe before he could execute his shot.
While Matlock generally looked a little more comfortable on the ball this was another good workout for Andy Carney’s side which battled hard and defended extremely well throughout.
Belper Town: Hancock, Booker, Thompson, Rushbury, Adams, Plant, Pearce (Swindells 45), Harrison (Paling 74), Froggatt (Ramsay 74), Benger, Peel. Subs not used: Jenkins J, Pride, Mirfin.
Matlock Town: Sollitt (Algar 20), Turner (Brough 69), Jenkins Z (Featherstone 69), Bowler, Whitcombe, King, Wiggins-Thomas (Wood 69), Warne (Marsen 78), Cropper, Hannah, Knowles (Joynes 74).
Referee: Matt Walsh (Sheffield)