Nailers halt Morpeth charge
By David Laughlin
Very few teams have halted the juggernaut that is Morpeth Town until Belper Town ground out an admirable 1-1 draw in true robust fashion, writes Nathaniel Kay.
With one of the more depleted squads in the division, Grant Black has been unable to name the same line up in successive fixtures all season.
New signing, Cameron Hough came straight into the mix, as regulars Jake Sturgess and Danny South dropped to the bench. Piteu Crouz returned to the starting XI.
When it came to form, not a single team could better Belper or Morpeth’s current record in the Evo-Stik division. Their identical records made for an even encounter, despite the home side having only lost once in the league all season, at the hands of the Nailers.
There was clear evidence as to why the Highwaymen are the highest in the division, in the way they controlled possession that would upset most opposition. But Belper were not in awe of the task and matched their hosts for the most part.
Chances were few and far as both were worth their weight in terms of league position.
George Milner, off the back of his match winning display against Pontefract, displayed his typical tenacious endeavour by winning a loose ball, turning a man and getting a shot on target.
Needless fouls by Belper looked to be Morpeth’s main source of threat and the opener stemmed from a set piece.
As the freekick was whipped in, Jack Foalle flicked an ambitious effort goal wards, which took an age in the air. It looked a certainty to evade the cross bar, however as it came down, it looped over Leigh Overton and the hosts were ahead in unusual fashion.
Conceding did shift momentum towards Morpeth, as Tom Potter pulled the ball back onto his left foot, letting fly a tame effort easily wrapped up by Overton.
Belper resorted to searching for areas deeper in final third, without massive prevail. Milner was made to sit on the periphery for the large part. To their credit, they were still firmly in the tie.
Once again, Morpeth almost benefited from Belper’s truancy. Foalle found himself in a seemingly certain situation to score after the cross poorly dealt with yet sliced his strike into the side netting.
The pattern of play did not revert much from the first half; stubborn defences derailed any flowing attacking football. Belper would have no complaints in the manner of their equaliser however.
Craig Nelthorpe delivered a trade mark dead ball delivery, picking out the frame of Milner like a radar. Regardless of his stature, the striker’s header could not have been more perfectly placed into the top corner.
It was the home side who were desperate to try and steal all three points, as the Craik Park crowd rallied their team forward.
A rare gap opened in the Belper backline, with Ben Sayer surging towards goal only to ripple the side netting from a promising angle.
Fair to say, Belper’s backs were pinned up against the wall in the last 15 minutes, their resilience was truly rallying, every man sticking to role with rigid execution.
Belper’s nine game unbeaten stretch in the division deserves all its plaudits, plus their performance against the potential winners of the Evo-Stik competition is one very few will pull off.
Black and his staff have redefined the club and the Belper faithful will be truly grateful for that.
Belper Town: Overton, Hough (Sturgess 78), Clark, Paylor, Peterson, Assenso, Nelthorpe, Robson (Gordon 88), Milner, Crouz, Curtis (Hancock 70). Unused subs: Hancock, Esmaeily, South.
Morpeth Town: Lowson, Fry, Reid, Sayer, Petrache, Henderson, Graydon (Moan 68), Hodgson, Foalle, Phillips, Potter. Unused subs: Turner, Parker, Walton, Tsapolos.
Referee: Adam Williamson