Belper’s home form continues to cause concern
Sheffield FC secured a narrow victory at the Marston's Stadium but the Nailers felt hard done to not share the spoils, writes Nathaniel Kay
In the absence of manager Aaron Webster, assistant player/manager Lee Williamson oversaw four changes from the disaster against Frickley Athetic last week.
A potentially long-term injury to Jake Carlisle handed a first start for young Jake McIntosh in central defence whilst Aaron Cole, Anton Daniels and Cameron Steele replaced Joe Hunt, Dylan Garnett and Jonathan Jebbison.
A bright start was certainly needed to rid the memory of the 6-0 home defeat five days previously and the team obliged with an improved performance.
Only the woodwork denied Sam Birks his third goal of the season and the opener, with his close range effort slamming the cross bar after interchanging passes neatly with Williamson.
Birks involved himself again, chipping a weighted ball to the back post for the leaping Anton Daniels, who could only head straight at Jamie Ingham in the Sheffield goal.
After mustering more opportunities in the first 15 minutes of the tie than in the whole of the Frickley fixture, positivity was the overrriding emotion for the home side.
This was until the 17th minute, as a ball straight through the Belper backline left James Gregory a free run on goal, and his finish was never in doubt.
From bad to worse followed in less than 120 seconds for Belper. Gregory turned provider this time, pulling his cross back into the path of the onrushing Andrew Gascoigne, dispatching calmly for a Sheffield second.
Instant reaction was required and duly provided.
Williamson whacked his strike into the back of the net at the third time of asking, after his initial shot was saved by Ingham before Birks struck the near post but the ball came back to Belper’s number 10 and from there he did the business.
Belper found joy down their right-hand side with Max Thornberry and Cameron Steele combining on more than one occasion.
It was the full back’s cross that lead to a less than convincing parry by Ingham but Williamson, following up, missed with a wild attempt at goal.
The visitors had knocked the wind out of Belper with their goals in quick succession and should’ve had a third after the ball ricochet into the path of Waide Fairhurst, who in turn blasted over from 8 yards out.
Chances came thick and fast throughout the tie and continued into the second period. Ben Turner ventured forward from right back, forcing a save out Joe Searson-Smithard.
The Nailers rearguard was far from fortified at times. Joel Purkiss was allowed to run through but again failed to capitalize with a clear sight at goal, Searson making a comendible stop.
Belper had lost their rhythm from the first half and now resorted to long balls into the front men, with very little effect.
Searson-Smithard will not have thanked his defenders for his protection as Andrew Gascoigne took his turn to face the keeper one-on-one but his attempted dink never looked likely to trouble the Belper goal but it was a let-off none the less.
Clear cut chances weren’t in abundance for Belper, but as the ball feel to an unmarked Birks in the box it appeared like one of those moments. Unfortunately, he could only turn and strike straight at Ingham and out for a corner.
Sheffield’s crossbar was left shaking again when Williamson was denied by a lick of paint after collecting substitute Will Dennis’s cross and going a whisker away from the equaliser.
In reflection, the score line was perhaps harsh on Belper and the maybe team deserved more out of the game.
Belper Town: Searson-Smithard, Thornberry, Cole, Allen (Dennis 72), McIntosh, Harrison, Steele, Lloyd, Birks, Williamson, Daniles (Hunt 89). Unused subs: Butcher, Garnett, Goddard.
Sheffield FC: Ingham, Turner, Brown, Lawrence, Morrison, Winter, Chapman, Gascoigne, Fairhurst (Osborne 89), Purkiss (Lindsey 55), Gregory. Unused subs: Roney, Magee, Yates.
Referee: Paul Buck