Ward's late winner keeps play-off hopes alive
Belper Town kept their play-off hopes alive with their 11th win in 12 games but had to work very hard to overcome a resilient Romulus side.
Mark Ward clips the ball past Romulus 'keeper, Lewis Exall. to give Belper a priceless victory
The Nailers lost key defender Dan White a few hours before kick-off following a family illness and Greg Wright moved into central defence with Andy Rushbury coming in at left back.
Romulus arrived at Christchurch Meadow in 20th place in the league table, however they were all but mathematically safe from relegation and as such, played as though the pressure was off.
A quickly taken free kick nearly produced an early opener for the Nailers but Alton Rennalls’ effort didn’t find a way through a group of players and then Ashley Longstaff stabbed the ball over the cross bar.
Greg Wright impeded James Reid to give the visitors a good opportunity from the edge of the penalty area in the 5th minute, but Aaron Chapman got down well to Curtis Wynter’s low free kick.
Good work from Chris Adam won the Nailers a corner kick in the 9th minute but Lewis Exall got his fist to the ball, and now Belper were beginning to pick up the pace a little.
Wynter twisted and turned his way past two players to release an awkward bouncing shot that Aaron Chapman safely gathered at his near post in the 15th minute.
Romulus showed good ability on the ball albeit over elaborating sometimes, but they were clearly at Christchurch Meadow to make things as difficult as possible for Peter Duffield’s men.
Chris Adam put a 20th minute free kick too close to the ‘keeper but the Nailers were now struggling to make an impact and then conceded another free kick in a dangerous position, although this time the defensive wall did its job.
The game needed a spark of inventiveness as defences were on top and the Nailers were still waiting for their first direct shot on goal.
Belper had Aaron Chapman to thank for keeping the scores level in the 40th minute when he dived at full stretch to palm away a James Reid header from 12 yards, however the Belper ‘keeper could do nothing about Gavin Day’s tremendous effort from nearly 20 yards that flew into the far corner of the net to give Romulus the lead in the 43rd minute.
The Nailers received an unexpected boost two minutes after the restart when Liam Francis scooped an attempted clearance from a Chris Adam cross beyond his ‘keeper and inside the far post.
Glyn Cotton had a half chance in the 52nd minute when the ball fell invitingly on the edge of the penalty area but his volley swerved away from the target.
The Nailers came close to taking the lead on 55 minutes when Jon Froggatt nodded on an Aaron Pride header and the ball bounced agonisingly the wrong side of the post.
There was more energy from Belper in the second half and they were finding their men better too, and in the 64th minute Mark Ward slipped the ball through for Chris Adam but he collided with onrushing ‘keeper Lewis Exall.
Mark Ward’s 70th minute free kick bent into the side netting then from a tempting Andy Rushbury cross, Jon Froggatt nodded the ball down for Glyn Cotton to acrobatically volley over the top.
Mark Ward hit a good chance wide in the 74th minute when the ball dropped to him just outside the six yard area and it was Belper who were asking all the questions at this stage of the game.
Jon Froggatt hit a free kick just over the cross bar and Jordan Turner was introduced with eight minutes to go in the hope that he could inspire a winner.
It didn’t take long, although it was Mark Ward who provided the all important touch when a hopeful ball into the box fell to him less than two yards out and he flicked it past the ‘keeper to give Belper the lead.
Romulus suddenly woke up and began to push Belper back and there were three or four anxious minutes before the referee confirmed that their unbeaten run now extended to a hugely impressive 12 games.
Belper Town: Chapman, Pride, Rushbury, Cotton (Turner 82), Wright, Simpkins, Rennalls (Leonard 73), Warne, Froggatt, Longstaff (Ward 45), Adam, Other subs: Meikle, Saxby
Romulus: Exall, Evans, Lee, Francis, Male, Day (Demonte 75), Wynter, Walker, Reid, Edwards (Price 88). Robinson (Jackson 83). Other Subs: Agbonlahor, Blissett
Belper Town: Liam Francis 47 og, Mark Ward 86
Romulus: Gavin Day 43
Referee: Steven Meredith (Retford)
Man of the Match: Michael Simpkins