Impressive first half secures cup win
By David Laughlin
An impressive first half display helped Belper advance to the Third Round of the Integro League Cup following a 2-1 win against AFC Mansfield., writes Jack Drury.
Goals from Nathan Curtis and captain Alex Peterson either side of a Tyrone Burton equaliser were enough for the Nailers, who face Gresley FC in the next round.
Belper made two changes from Saturday’s victory away at Frickley Athletic, as Jordan Watson deputised for the unavailable Leigh Overton in goal whilst opening goal scorer Curtis replaced Craig Nelthorpe.
The home side started strongly, with Piteu Crouz causing problems down the left hand side instantly, running at pace before driving a shot just over.
After just five minutes Belper found themselves in front, as they worked the ball across the box, with Danny South teeing up Nathan Curtis, who’s outside of the foot strike was too much for Tom Crosby in the Mansfield goal.
The visitors began to find their way into the match shortly after, as Liam Marsden’s long throw-ins soon became a focal point of their attacks, the first after a quarter of an hour, well held by an under pressure Watson.
Isaac Assenso, who had an impressive outing at right back, came close only a minute later after some nice interplay on the edge of the box, seeing his shot rustle the side netting.
Kai Hancock latched onto a long ball from the back well before seeing his shot parried by Crosby, with Crouz curling wide on the rebound.
A minute later Hancock will feel he should have taken yet another chance, as he lobbed the onrushing keeper with the effort going just over.
All the problems in the first half were being caused by Belper’s new look front three of Hancock, Crouz, and George Milner, who were hailed by Grant Black after the final whistle.
The manager said: “I think Kai knows himself he could have had two or three tonight as could probably the other two. I think pace is going to cause many teams problems and when those three use it properly it can be dangerous like it looked tonight.”
Derry Robson saw an attempted cross strike the woodwork, as Belper dominated the opening quarter of the game.
However, after 28 minutes some poor marking from a Liam Marsden driven free kick left Tyrone Burton free to volley home through the legs of Watson to level the tie.
Belper were only pegged back for six minutes as South provided again, this time for Alex Peterson to brilliantly volley past Crosby, as the Nailers went in to the break 2-1 up.
The second half started slowly with neither side crafting any clear cut chances, as a niggly affair broke out, with Hancock picking up a soft booking on the hour mark for halting a quick free kick.
From here, the Bulls began to pile on the pressure as they searched for an equaliser.
With 20 minutes to go, a clever free kick from Philip Buxton found Jordan Annable, who crossed low to Burton and should have doubled his tally for the night, as his effort skewed wide.
A needless foul from Hancock after 73 minutes saw referee Richard Cattell brandish a second yellow card to the forward, as Belper fell to ten men.
Despite the man disadvantage, the Nailers held firm for a deserved win, their second victory against AFC Mansfield this season.
Speaking after the game, Black credited his side for their determined performance, saying: “I think that’s the most pleasing thing from tonight.
“In the second half it went a bit scrappy and we’ve absolutely dogged out a result, and then for 20 minutes to play with ten men is even more pleasing that the lads can cope with that.”
Despite the back-to-back home red cards, Black is not concerned that his side’s discipline is slipping.
“If somebody gets sent off for dissent then that’s something I’d come down on but I don’t want a team of robots.
“I like passionate players. I think Kai’s first booking he’s got his back to the ball so that’s not a yellow card, and the second one sort of is.”
After their second win in four days, Belper prepare to host Loughborough Dynamo in the league on Saturday.
Belper Town: Watson, Assenso, Clark, Robson (Sturgess 85), South, Peterson, (Hough 62), Curtis (Paylor 71), Gordon, Milner, Hancock, Crouz. Unused subs: Esmaeily, Thompson
AFC Mansfield: Crosby, Marsden, Peace-McDonald, Wall, D’Laryea (Lindley 45), Annable, Burton, Buxton, Dear, Daniels, Dawes. Unused subs: Dudley, Ward
Referee: Richard Cattell