Pride's late strike salvages point
By David Laughlin
Aaron Pride’s late strike salvaged a point for the Nailers at Sheffield on Bank Holiday Monday and helped to dim the memory of disastrous FA Cup exit the previous Saturday.
With Nathan Benger and Lee Thompson unavailable there was an opportunity for Mark Barnard to come in at left back and Ruben Wiggins-Thomas made his first start after his signing from Matlock Town.
Ryan Booker dropped to the bench and gave Aaron Pride the opportunity play his first game of the season at right back, while there was a smattering of Belper ‘old boys’ in the Sheffield line up with Leigh Walker, Adam Burley, Scott Lowe and manager Chris Dolby all having spent time at Christchurch Meadow.
The Nailers were keen to put in a good performance on a ground where previously they hadn’t lost a game and they began strongly by pressing the home side back in the early stages.
In fact Justin Jenkins had the ball in the net after executing a smart volley from a knock down by Jon Froggatt, but the referee’s assistant flagged Froggatt offside before he received the ball.
Belper’s promising start continued, and in the 13th minute a superbly placed free kick from Mark Barnard was met by Froggatt who planted a firm header straight at Leigh Walker.
Sheffield’s Gary Smith sent a header over the bar on 19 minutes, and in truth lack of accuracy with their heading subsequently cost the home team dear.
Justin Jenkins did well to get to the bye line on 26 minutes but sent his cross straight to a defender, and for the first half hour the Nailers had enjoyed the lion’s share of possession.
Andy Rushbury was well placed to clear the ball off the line as Sheffield slowly got into the game, but on 33 minutes Simon Mirfin’s slide rule pass through the Sheffield defence was perfect for Russ Peel.
Peel did his bit by finding Froggatt on the edge of the six yard box but the resulting shot from the Belper striker frustratingly hit the legs of an unwitting defender and the ball was cleared.
Not for the first time this season the Nailers conceded a goal close to half time and Sheffield took the lead from a free kick conceded by Peel on the edge of the penalty are.
Ashley Burbeary hit the ball low and hard through the defensive wall and a slight deflection was sufficient to wrong foot Ali Barcherini.
The Sheffield livewire almost scored again with an audacious effort from almost 30 yards but Barcherini managed to back track quickly enough to palm the ball over the cross bar.
There was still time before the break for Justin Jenkins to force a good save out of Walker with a header from Aaron Pride’s cross in the 43rd minute.
The Nailers had done reasonably well in the first period and hopes were high for a second half revival.
In the event it was a disappointing half for the first 30 minutes despite plenty of effort from Belper, and their eagerness to get forward sometimes left openings at the back that Sheffield should have exploited.
Andrew Gascoigne’s blatant miss in the 57th minute was a case in point and there were at least two other near misses before Belper managed to get things together in the final 15 minutes.
Luke Fedorenko sparked a more promising spell following his introduction on 65 minutes, and two consecutive free kicks in the 73rd and 75th minutes caused problems for the Sheffield defence, but on the other hand didn’t produce a clear cut chance.
Fedorenko went on a solo run in the 83rd minute and ran nearly 30 yards, skipping past at least three players before overrunning the ball to Leigh Walker.
Justin Jenkins’ rather lazy cross shot drifted harmlessly past the far post and seemed to signal defeat for Belper, then out of the blue an equaliser arrived from an unlikely source.
Aaron Pride, who to be fair who had played well enough to get a longer run in the first team, collected the ball inside Sheffield’s half and ran unchallenged into space before striking the ball from almost 30 yards into the far corner of the goal.
It was a great strike from Pride (pictured) and certainly a sickener for Sheffield who paid dearly for earlier missed opportunities, but was some reward for a hard working performance from the Nailers who never gave up hope.
Sheffield FC: Walker, Smith (Cooksey 88), Burley, Jones, Lowe, Winter, Burbeary, Outram, Jackson, Adam, Gascoigne (Turner 88). Subs. not used: Davis, Dolby.
Belper Town: Barcherini, Pride, Barnard, Mirfin, Adams, Plant, Wiggins-Thomas (Lord 77), Rushbury Harrison 63), Froggatt, Jenkins, Peel (Fedorenko 65). Subs. not used Wood, Booker.
Referee: Ian Dudley (Sutton-in-Ashfield)