Barwell 1 Belper Town 0
Belper Town’s 1-0 defeat against league leaders Barwell was in many ways a travesty of justice because they had done more than enough to warrant at least a point, possibly all three.
A Barwell fan was heard to say at the final whistle “ we scored in the first minute and then hung on for 89”, and while this was a harsh assessment on his own team, there was certainly a strong feeling that the Nailers had been the better side on the night.
Lee Thompson replaced Matty Thorpe in midfield and Charlie Weir regained his starting place after losing out to Andy Rushbury against Lincoln United.
Lack of concentration in the first minute of the game lead to the only goal of the evening when Kevin Charley nodded on a Jamie Towers cross and the ball looped into the top corner of the net with Ali Barcherini helpless.
Nailers’ supporters could have been forgiven if they’d thought that it was the start of a torrid evening but far from it, as Belper came back strongly and had the champions elect on the back foot for long periods.
Barwell have some excellent defenders and a very good ‘keeper, and they certainly needed them as the Nailers chose to play with strength, skill and confidence which clearly surprised Barwell who had surely been hoping for an easier passage.
Matt Plant (pictured) almost prodded the ball in from close range following a corner kick in the 4th minute, then Charlie Weir struck a controlled volley from the edge of the area to give Richard Morris his first real test.
Aaron Pride, who has relished his return to first team action, broke quickly with the ball in the 21st minute and his pass to Darryl Thomas was turned into the path of Jon Froggatt.
Belper’s leading marksman seemed to be caught in two minds his cross shot sailed harmlessly over the angle of the far post.
Froggatt had a better opportunity in the 27th minute when the ball broke to him in an unmarked position to the left of the goal, but he failed to find the target even though he had only Morris to beat.
Jamie Smith had Morris in all sorts of trouble with a 38th minute volley from the edge of the area, and the Nailers looked set to equalise when Weir hit a follow up effort, but the ‘keeper unwittingly got in the way of the shot and the ball ricocheted him and off the cross bar to safety.
Jamie Smith hit another effort moments later that went close, but all Belper had to show for their first half dominance was pride in their performance.
Belper continued to pose the greater threat after the break but in Francino Francis and Chris Hollist, Barwell had high calibre defenders and if they were breached, Richard Morris was on hand to tidy everything up.
Matt Plant nearly got past Morris with a great volley on 55 minutes but again the ‘keeper kept his team’s sights firmly on promotion with a great one handed save.
Charlie Weir showed good control and awareness in the 60th minute to find Smith, again on the edge of the area, but his driven effort took a kind deflection and a corner kick was Belper’s only reward.
Although Barwell had periodically kept the Nailers on their toes defensively thanks mainly to the efforts of Jamie Towers, it was he who missed their best opportunity by far when he put an unchallenged header straight into the arms of Ali Barcherini on 84 minutes.
However it was Belper who continued to cause Barwell problems and on 85 minutes Richard Adams saw his header pushed wide of the post, then Andy Rushbury was denied by another superb save from Morris, who had undoubtedly been the man of the match and kept Barwell’s championship ambitions on track.
It was an excellent performance from the Nailers, and one which manager Andy Carney can justifiably proud.
Barwell: Morris, Lower, Hollist, Sanders, Francis, Stanley (Dodd 66), Towers, Hadland, Barlone (Julien 79), Charley (Rickards 73), Dutton. Unused subs: Letts, Wykes.
Belper Town: Barcherini, Pride, Davis (Fedorenko 78), Thompson, Plant, Adams, Wiggins-Thomas, Smith, Froggatt, Thomas, Weir (Rushbury 86). Unused subs: Darker, Thorpe, Simmons.
Referee: Jon Law (Worcester)