Newcastle Town 2 Belper Town 3
By David Laughlin
This was Belper Town’s third successive away victory and their most impressive yet as they defeated high flying Newcastle Town at the Lyme Valley Stadium.
Castle’s invincibility over nearly two seasons had seen them promoted as runaway champions of the North West Counties League and it is only recently that their glossy veneer has shown signs of cracking.
After a tremendous start to their life in the Evo-Stik League, Newcastle lost their first league game of the season to Sutton Coldfield three weeks ago, and then promptly lost their second a week later at Loughborough.
Therefore Belper’s victory, considering their impressive return to form that included wins at Leek and Lincoln in their last two outings, may not have been such a shock after all.
The Nailers put in a good all-round team performance and worked extremely hard to stifle Newcastle’s undoubted underlying creativity, and caused them untold problems on the break.
It was an awful night and Belper adapted to the slippery conditions better than Castle who grew more and more frustrated as the game wore on.
It took a while for the game to get going and the Nailers had the first real effort when Andy Rushbury struck a volley that flew well wide of the post.
Newcastle’s strength was on the break but Belper were vigilant and tracked back quickly to cover.
The home side’s first opportunity came from a 16th minute corner kick and Peter Heler’s glancing header virtually grazed the upright on its way out of play.
The Nailers fell into the trap of under-hitting passes on the increasingly wet surface and had already suffered a few scares before Nicky Darker lost possession to Jordan Johnson in the 25th minute, and he took the ball on towards goal before releasing a shot aimed for the far corner.
Ali Barcherini got down well to make the save but the ball came out to Neville Thompson who steered home the rebound beyond Barcherini’s reach.
Alan Nagington should have made it two on 28 minutes when he ran through on goal but he sent his shot against the outside of the far post.
This was a turning point in the game as Belper began to work their way back into contention and finished the first half strongly.
Belper’s best move came in the 35th minute when Jon Froggatt’s pass cut out three defenders and Ruben Wiggins-Thomas powered his way to the by-line, however he couldn’t find Darryl Thomas who was waiting for the cross on the edge of the six yard box.
Matt Plant perhaps should have levelled the scores on the stroke of half time when he put a free header just past the angle from a corner kick.
The Nailers began the second period under a bit of pressure but the best Newcastle could offer in this period was a vicious shot from John Sheldon that Barcherini guided over the cross bar.
With Paris Simmons, Jon Froggatt and Ruben Wiggins-Thomas linking up well, Belper always looked a threat and might have scored in the 51st minute if Wiggins-Thomas had been able to keep control of the ball with the Castle defenders back tracking.
However the Nailers’ persistence paid off in the 56th minute when Nicky Darker forced Dan Read into a full length save, and as he could only push the ball away, Jon Froggatt (pictured) pounced to score from close in.
Belper’s joy was short lived because the home side were ahead again on 59 minutes with a goal that was controversial to say the least.
As the ball was punted high into the Belper penalty area it was clearly helped on by the hand of Newcastle skipper, Mike Douglas before landing at the feet of the unmarked Neville Thompson who score his second of the night.
Protestations from Belper players continued for about two minutes but to no avail and they had to knuckle down and concentrate on the remaining 30 minutes play.
The Nailers continued to hustle and hurry the Newcastle players and maintained their threat up front.
The equaliser came out of the blue as the referee awarded a penalty for presumably, a pull by John Sheldon in the penalty area and Jon Froggatt coolly converted the spot kick.
The Nailers now sensed victory and the winner came on 87 minutes when Jon Froggatt picked out Nicky Darker who had ghosted unseen into the penalty area, and he finished clinically with a first time shot that beat the exposed ‘keeper.
During the celebrations, Darryl Thomas had clearly upset the referee’s assistant with some unnecessary comments and did his team’s cause no good whatsoever by getting himself sent off, leaving his colleagues to see out the remainder of normal and added-on time with 10 men.
Belper Town may have just give themselves a glimmer of hope for a play off place after this victory at rain sodden Newcastle, and they now seem to be in the right frame of mind to achieve it.
Newcastle Town: Read, Willis (Minor 88), White, Heler, George, Douglas, Johnson, Skelton, Nagington (Richards 88), Thompson, Sheldon (James 84). Unused subs: Beckett, Williams.
Belper Town: Barcherini, Thompson, Adams, Darker, Keane, Plant, Wiggins-Thomas, Davis (Peel 88), Froggatt, Simmons, Rushbury (Thomas 30). Unused subs: Pride, Barnard, Carney.
Referee: Alan Sheffield (Walsall)