All square in frenetic encounter
By David Laughlin
A fast and furious encounter with promotion-fancied Stamford ended all square as Belper continued their record of conceding needless penalties and incurring the wrath of match officials, writes Dave Laughlin.
PHOTO: Belper's Rikki Paylor battles for the ball (Pic: Tim Harrison)
Manager Grant Black gave debuts to midfielder Derry Robson, recently arrived from Goole AFC, and Kai Hancock who put his name on the score sheet on his first appearance at the Silver X Stadium
Another new signing, Marcus Edwards, was given a place on the substitute’s bench.
As befits a team lying second in the table, Stamford made all the early running.
Liam Adams forced Max Beardmore into making a smart save from a powerful low drive before Isaac Assenso executed a perfectly timed tackle to nick the ball away for Bradley Fortnam-Tomlinson as the Stamford striker burst into the penalty area.
Joe Burgess saw his rising shot clip the top of the Belper crossbar as the Daniels continued to ask most of the questions in the early stages.
Belper were matching the visitors for energy and endeavour and they almost edged in front when Danny South’s looping head was almost forced over the line before being scrambled away.
Stamford raced away from the clearance but after a flowing move, Eliot Putman skewed a disappointing effort wide of the target when he had more than enough time to have made a more positive contribution.
Danny South was fortunate to escape a booking with a lunging challenge on Fortnam-Tomlinson near the corner flag before referee David Hunt made the first of a number puzzling decisions when he awarded a penalty to Stamford, adjudging a holding offence by a Belper defender.
Justice was done however when Max Beardmore made a fine save from Putman’s spot kick and then did even better to block the follow-up effort.
That miss looked to be costly as Belper swept forward after 32 minutes and when Danny South’s goal-bound shot was parried by former Nailers ‘keeper Danny Haystead, debutant Kai Hancock was on hand to slide the ball into the net, despite offside protests from the visiting defenders.
Danny South volleyed over as Belper’s confidence rose and then Nathan Curtis struck a fine shot from just outside the box that drew a top-drawer save from Haystead.
The Nailers endured a moment of anxiety just before the half-time whistle as the ball ricocheted around the six-year box before Beardmore dropped onto the ball to relieve the danger.
The second period brought much less in the way of goal scoring opportunities but the contest remained fast and furious with spectators lapping up the cut and thrust of the contest.
Cleveland Taylor spiralled a speculative shot high over the Belper crossbar before Liam Adams curled another effort marginally over as Stamford fought to restore equality.
The Daniels had the ball in the net only to be chalked off by a linesman’s flag but you could sense that a Stamford equaliser was not too far away.
It duly arrived after 82 minutes when Daniels substitute Jon Challinor was given far too much space just outside the box and his powerful shot could only be admired by a static Beardmore in the Belper goal as the ball flew into his net.
That only encouraged Belper to try to find another gear and roared on by the home support, they mounted a number of dangerous sorties on the Stamford defence.
George Milner, the outstanding performer in the Belper ranks, whipped over a great cross from the right which fell agonising behind Alex Peterson as the Nailers captain homed in the ball and then Peterson headed over from a corner when well placed.
The focus then moved from the field of play when the increasingly harassed referee saw reason to send Nailers manager Grant Black from the Belper technical area before booking Liam Adams for a cynical foul on George Milner as the Belper player streaked forward past an overstretched defence.
The official was now in his element, sending off Derry Robson after Belper debutant had picked up a second yellow for a professional foul but with both sides still straining for a second goal, he called proceedings to a halt with the honours shared.
It had been a high energy display from both teams with a great deal of good football on show and the final outcome probably the fairest outcome.
Belper Town: Beardmore, Curtis, Assenso (Lucas 85), Paylor, Sturgess, South, Milner, Robson, Peterson, Hancock (Edwards 62), Johal (Clark 90). Unused Subs: Gordon, Crouz
Stamford AFC: Haystead, Hare, Putman (Armstrong 62), Burgess, Cooke, Eggington, Taylor (Challinor 46), Duffy, Fortnam-Tomlinson, Adams, Morris (Mugisha 46). Unused Subs; Peasgood, Grouse.
Referee: David Hunt (Shirebrook)