Belper recovery all in vain
By David Laughlin
Having worked hard to drag themselves back into the match, an uncharacteristic defensive mistake eventually consigned the Nailers to a 3-2 defeat at Dales Lane.
Belper’s pre-match planning was made much more difficult with the unavailability of no less than seven players from Andy Carney’s first team squad.
Following Asa Ingall’s shock decision to retire from the game and Nathan Benger’s decision to move to Rainworth Miners Welfare in midweek, Belper also found themselves without the injured Simon Mirfin (shoulder) and Leigh Warriner (hamstring).
And with Luke Fedorenko absent due to a holiday commitment and Rob Paling’s unavailability, the decision to allow Ollie Warren to build up his match fitness with Maltby MW backfired on the Belper manager.
But Andy Rushbury was fit again following a hamstring strain and he took Fedorenko’s midfield berth whilst Chris Wood also retained his place in midfield after coming on as substitute in the midweek victory over Glapwell.
The enfoced absences meant that the Nailers could only field two outfield substitutes with cover goalkeeper, Steve Hernadez also taking a place on the bench.
Meanwhile, the Pics included the Division’s leading goalscorer, Craig Bannister amongst their free scoring strikeforce.
Belper almost got off to a perfect start when Mark Barnard floated in a superb first-time cross into the six yard box but Chris Wood’s header fell nicely from home ‘keeper, Chris Gemmell.
But then Olympic should have opened the scoring after 7 minutes when Chris Morris sent in a fierce 20 yarder which produced a fine save from Ali Barcherini and from the resulting corner, Barcherini again saved well at his near post before Mark Barnard cleared a follow-up effort off the goalline.
Ruben Wiggins-Thomas had a half decent shout for a penalty turned down by the referee as he was seemingly hauled down from behind as he jinked his way along the Rushall bye line.
But as the action shifted to the other end, Stuart McNaught fired narrowly over the bar from 12 yards as the Nailers struggled to clear their lines from a corner.
The open goal arrived after 20 minutes as Belper’s frailty in defending set pieces was exposed again when Craig Bannister found himself in oceans of space to head a free kick from Anthony Maguire across Barcherini and inside the far post.
The Nailers might have been level moments later but Wiggins-Thomas watched in anguish as his delicate chip struck the top of the Rushall crossbar with goalkeeper Chris Gemmell a mere spectator.
Matt Plant headed narrowly wide and Chris Wood spooned a shot well over as the Nailers tried to force their way back into the game but there was always the nagging doubt that Rushall’s midfield dominance would eventually sway the outcome of the match in their direction.
The lively Chris Morris found himself ahead of the Belper defence only to squeeze his shot wide of the far post but ‘Pics were not to be denied as they extended their lead five minutes before the interval.
Another great cross from Alex Melboune found the head of Craig Bannister and although the Rushall forward’s header was spectacularly kept out by Barcherini, he followed up to crash the loose ball into the net.
Belper needed a vast improvement in the second half if they had any pretentions of getting back into the match and they scored the all-important third goal after 54 minutes when Lee Thompson sent in a superbly flighted free kick into the penalty area where Justin Jenkins headed back across goal for Jon Froggatt (pictured) to slide the ball in at the far post.
And the comeback was complete after 62 minutes when Froggatt speared another cross into the danger area. Ruben Wiggins-Thomas and Kieran Debrouwer might have got a faint touch on the ball is it found its way into the back of the net but Froggatt was intent on claiming the goal as his own.
However, Belper’s joy was shortlived in the extreme.
A routine ball down the middle was missed by Richard Adams and as the ball was eventually played through his legs, Chris Morris was on hand to toe-poke the ball under the advancing Barcherini.
With the rain now teeming down, Belper were now throwing everthing forward to salvage the game and as a consequence, gaps were beginning to appear in the overstretched defensive areas.
Anthony Maguire sent a 35-yard shot fizzing over the Belper crossbar as the Belper defence backed off and invited him to try his luck at goal.
Meanwhile, the Nailers were becoming increasingly frustrated at their inability to prize open the Rushall defence for a third time and Rushall held on for the points.
At the end of the day, this was not a fluent performance by the Nailers, and their lack of numbers in midfield ultimately denied them the opportunity to maintain their recent undefeated sequence of results.
Certainly, on the balance of play, Olympic deserved to win and their eventual success by the odd goal in five was probably a reasonable reflection of the game.
Rushall Olympic: Gemmell, Gomes, Smith, Tolley, Melbourne, Ashton, Amos, McNaught, Bannister, Morris, Maguire. Subs: Hepburn, Ludlow, O'Kelly, Williams, Obeng
Belper Town: Barcherini, Pride, Barnard (Peel 54), Wood, Adams, Plant, Wiggins-Thomas, Thompson, Froggatt, Jenkins (Debrouwer 54), Rushbury. Other sub: Hernandez.
Referee: P Tyler (Worcester)