Nailers grind out a draw at Sheffield
By David Laughlin
Belper Town ground out a goal-less draw against Sheffield FC at the the Home of Football, writes Nigel Oldrini.
PHOTO: Academy star Harry Dudley making his first appearance for the senior side (Pic: Tim Harrison)
Records indicate that it is 23 years since the Nailers experienced an away defeat against Sheffield. Since then there have been 13 meetings of the two old rivals with Belper winning 10 and drawing 3 over that period.
With Club eager to remain in the play off places, and with undoubtedly one of their better sides in recent years, it was a tough afternoon for the Nailers despite the fact that the hosts could easily have lost if it hadn’t been for their ‘keeper Jonathan Hedge.
With Craig Nelthorpe eligible again after a four-match suspension. Liam Owen dropped to the bench while Isaac Assenso remained at left back which meant there wasn’t a start for Cameron Clark.
Within seconds of kick off, Belper might have scored as Alex Peterson launched the ball in the direction of Nathan Curtis, but the Belper striker couldn’t make the most of the early opportunity.
There were then two corner kicks in quick succession that put the hosts under pressure and in the 5th minute Danny South nodded the ball on from a goal kick which fell kindly for Jonathan Hedge.
Sheffield gradually started to get into the game but the hard bumpy pitch meant that the ball spent far too long in the air, with the result that flowing football was virtually impossible.
Daz Winter had a well struck shot blocked on 15 minutes but otherwise the Belper defence had looked fairly untroubled.
Sam Colbear curled a cross in from the right on the half hour mark and although the ball reached Derry Robson, the pace of it made it difficult to take advantage.
Sheffield had an opportunity in the 31st minute as a quickly taken free kick reached Luke Rawson, although he put his angled shot wide of the post.
Piteu Crouz provided a handful of crosses as the Nailers came back into it but nothing came of them, then Club had their best opportunity of the half when Rawson shook off his markers only to hit the ball over the crossbar.
The Nailers lost Alex Peterson early in the second half to be replaced by Cameron Clark, and the hosts set about Belper with renewed vigour.
Isaac Assenso committed a foul just outside the area, an offence for which he was booked but fortunately Club skipper Adam Chapman curled the free kick over the bar.
The Nailers were generally coping well with Sheffield’s attacking threat that came mainly from the right side, however the hosts’ best opportunity came from the opposite flank on 72 minutes when Alfie Eagle combined with Marc Newsham, but the end result was a shot off target.
Then as the game entered the last stages, Belper could have taken the lead but for the alertness of the Sheffield ‘keeper.
Liam Owen provided a cross into the box on 78 minutes, and Nathan Curtis made a firm connection from 15 yards, however Hedge’s reaction was immediate as he dived at full length to keep the ball out.
Then from an 86th minute free kick, Danny South found himself unmarked and directed his downwards header towards the far post, and again the ‘keeper clawed away the ball when a goal looked a certainty.
In the final analysis, the general feeling was that a share of the points was just about right.
Sheffield FC: Hedge, Grayson, Eagle, Patterson, Darkin, Chapman, Cribley, Winter (Pugh 85), Rawson (Osbourne 79), Newsham, Gregory. Unused subs: Ludlam, Mohammed, Dunne.
Belper Town: Malkowski, Gordon, Assenso, Robson, South, Colbear, Deacey , Nelthorpe (Owen 63), Peterson (Clark 48), Curtis, Crouz (Dudley 87). Unused subs: Boyall.
Referee: Jamie O’Connor