A messy game with an ugly ending
Belper were held to 2-2 with strugglers Romulus as both sides finished with ten men, writes Nathaniel Kay.
There were two changes out wide for Belper as Johnathan Jebbison and Cameron Steele started in place of Leandro Browne and Dylan Garnett.
Despite their league position, Romulus looked lively in the open exchanges and were more than a handful for the recently steadied Belper back four.
However, it all went wrong for Romulus on the 24th minute.
Referee Gareth Davies started his busy evening by showing a straight red card to Jake Donnelly for a reckless challenge inside the area on Jebbison and awarded a penalty.
Lee Williamson converted the spot kick for Belper’s first.
Belper didn’t maintain momentum and allowed their opponents a foot hold in the tie. Malachi Farquharson, who was a threat throughout, glanced a free header goal ward but Joe Searson-Smithard parried clear.
Dominic Allen hit a shot on the volley that keeper Billy Spink saved unconvincingly but he was hardly called into action after that.
And it was the away side who ended the half on a high.
Keiran Harrison tangled with Farquharson inside the Belper box and the referee pointed to the spot for a second time. Romario Martin slotted home on the stroke of half time.
A horror moment kicked off the second period and one Searson-Smithard won’t want to see again.
The young ‘keeper rushed from his goal, only to miss his clearance and duly presented Farquharson with an open net to score in.
Frustration mounted in the small stadium with one wasteful pass after another from The Nailers, failing to utilise their man advantage.
Sam Birks though showed great invention after managing to turn Williamsons clipped ball onto the cross bar from a tight angle.
One of the few times they kept the ball wide and delivered a meaningful cross, it paid dividends.
Cameron Steele’s ball evaded everyone other than Jebbison stealing in at the back post, who smashed the ball into the roof of the net for the leveller on 63 minutes.
Substitute Anton Daniels flicked a header agonisingly wide of the post in the final flourishes as the away side settled for the draw and the game came to a disappointed conclusion.
Referee Davies once again brandished his card, the colour red for Belper substitute Jack Hallahan after a touchline altercation with the Romulus bench. This involved one of their coaching staff also receiving his marching orders as tempers unnecessarily flared between both sides.
Although far away from their recent displays, Belper still scrapped a point and are unbeaten in three league matches, but a sterner test awaits on Saturday away at Stamford and an improvement is a must.
Belper Town: Searson-Smithard, Thornberry (Daniels 79), Goddard, Allen, Carlisle, Harrison, Steele (Garnett 70), Lloyd (Hallahan 63), Birks, Williamson, Jebbison. Unused subs: Cole, Hunt.
Romulus: Spink, Jackson, Williams, Donnelly, Taylor, Palmer, Francis (Santos 79), Coyle (Perkins 27), Farquharson, Martin (Lilly 90), Rutty-Smith. Unused subs: Harris, Sargeant.
Referee: Gareth Davies