Milner secures all three points for Nailers
By David Laughlin
Belper battled to the very end in a valiant 3-2 victory against league climbers Pontefract Collieries, with George Milner the man of the moment, writes Nathaniel Kay.
PHOTO: George Milner slots in the late winner that secured points for Belper (Pic: Mike Smith)
Danny South returned to the heart of the defence following his injury sustained against Stamford, replacing Piteu Crouz and pushing captain Alex Peterson further forward.
Belper could have been excused of suffering a hangover following the midweek FA Trophy replay defeat at Stamford especially with very little alteration to their starting line-up.
But, despite their respective league positions, it was Belper who dominated proceedings early on without getting the rub of the green.
George Milner made space to turn and curl a shot goal bound, only for Pontefract stopper Ryan Musselwhite to stretch his body to deny the goal.
Moments later, the home side were deprived of a first goal by a miniscule margin.
Rikki Paylor’s looping header kissed the fingertips of Musselwhite before rebounding off the underside of the bar and, as the ball bobbled around, it was scrambled away with home supporters claiming the ball had crossed the line
After their narrow escapes, Pontefract made Belper rue those misses as they raced down the other end where an unfortunate rebound wrong-footed the home defence and allowed Eli Hey to smuggle in and slot past Leigh Overton for the opener.
But Grant Black has installed new found optimism into his squad who refused to lie down and accept the setback, turning on the gas and threatening the visitors with pace and energy.
Their reaction was rewarded when George Milner constructed an inch-perfect pass to Derry Robson who broke through the lines and the midfielder was the coolest head on the pitch by rolling his shot in for the equaliser.
Pontefract’s top marksmen Hey had a couple of half chances, a wayward header followed by a scuffed shot that epitomised how Belper had battened down the hatches.
Belper’s formula didn’t falter into the second period. Milner was the mastermind again, unwilling to let Pontefract rest at the back. Retaining possession inside the area, he reversed the ball back into the path of Alex Peterson, who had the simplest of tasks in tapping in to put Belper deservedly in front.
Belper were now firmly on the front foot, but they were not short of wasted chances. Nathan Curtis and the mercurial Milner both missed opportunities to extend a narrow lead with soft shots straight at the ‘keeper.
Predictably, Belper were made to rue what should have been and Pontefract’s armoury was bolstered by Jack Greenhough’s gigantic long throw.
Having dealt with the weapon admirably throughout the game, they finally allowed one to get through their defences. As it sailed all the way through to the far post, Hey found himself unmarked and rocketed his shot past Leigh Overton.
The final ten minutes was a flurry of possession swinging between the two teams as both wrestled for a winner.
And in mesmerizing style, magic Milner sealed all three points with three minutes to go.
Milner began his outstanding run inside his own half, leaving Pontefract defenders in his wake. As the ball stuck to his feet, drifting slightly wide he placed his strike with perfection to seal a man-of-the-match winning performance.
A huge roar erupted around the stadium as fans and players alike acknowledged the scale of the three points and just how important the performance was as Belper recorded only their second home win of the season to push them above Pontefract in the league table.
Belper Town: Overton, Sturgess, Clark, Paylor, South (Hough 88), Assenso, Nelthorpe, Robson (Gordon 70), Peterson, Milner, Curtis (Crouz 76). Unused subs: Lucas, Esmaeily.
Pontefract Collieries: Musselwhite, Greenhough, Smythe, Picton, Gray (Cotton 45), Clarke, Cromack, Seed (Jeffs 59), Hey, Redford, Starcenko. Unused subs: Varley, Williams.
Referee: Lee Freeman