Chapman heroics keeps Nailers on course
By David Laughlin
Belper Town moved to equal second place with Coalville in the league table after this hard fought victory against Leek Town at Harrison Park.
Jon Froggatt turns away in triumph after putting the Nailers into the lead (Picture: Tim Harrison)
The Staffordshire gave the Nailers their toughest test for quite some time but two well taken goals in the first half and some excellent saves by Aaron Chapman helped Belper extend their unbeaten run to an incredible 23 games.
Manager Peter Duffield remained faithful to the same team that won at Romulus seven days earlier and the Nailers kicked off at a sunny Harrison Park knowing that victory could put them into second place, depending on Coalville’s result at Rainworth.
The Blues had former Belper player Anthony Danylyk in their starting line while the former Derby County and Sheffield United striker, Lee Morris was on the bench for the hosts.
Leek showed themselves to be worthy opponents straight from the off with Sam Hall putting the ball over the cross bar in the 6thminute, however Jon Froggatt nearly created Belper’s first goal a minute later when he ran past the ‘keeper and squared the ball to Simon Harrison who put the ball over the top.
Steve Brannan was a constant thorn in Belper’s side until he was sent off later in the game, and he made space for a shot that Aaron Chapman touched around the post with a full length save.
He was then inches away from connecting with a cross from the left and the Nailers were working hard as the Blues found their men consistently well.
Dan White put a header just over the bar from a Simon Harrison free kick mid way through the half as Belper slowly began to make their mark on the game.
Shaun Tuton demonstrated great energy in getting back the ball from a Leek defender but after doing the hard work, he sliced his shot well wide of the target.
Nailers talisman Jon Froggatt put Belper in front on 29 minutes after collecting a headed pass from Simon Harrison and then calmly cutting inside and despatching his shot into the bottom corner of the net for an excellent goal.
Steve Brannan startled the Nailers with a fine effort that went just wide and reminded them that Leek were a force to be reckoned with, then Aaron Chapman pulled off a magnificent save to deny Matt Bell’s curling free kick in the 41st minute.
However Belper scored a second goal on the stroke of half time when Glyn Cotton’s perfectly placed header from Simon Harrison’s free kick, glided over the top of the stretching Ben Chapman
But there was still time for Aaron Chapman to preserve Belper’s lead with another fine save when he prevented yet another Steve Brannan effort, this time a close-range header, from going into the net.
Leek made every effort to get back on level terms after the break and it’s hard to remember the last game in which Belper had to defend in depth for such long spells.
The Blues introduced the experienced Lee Morris at half time and he immediately made an impact by flicking the ball on for Dan Shelley to reduce the arrears from close range.
Simon Harrison forced Ben Chapman into to full length save but Leek sensed that they could be the first team to beat Belper since mid-October and they played the kind of football that suggested they might just do that.
Steve Brannan came close to levelling the scores with a swerving effort that wasn’t too far away, and Belper’s only offering in this period was a Richard Adams glancing header from a Harrison free kick.
Steve Brannan spoiled an otherwise excellent display by being red carded when he was adjudged to have dived following a Shaun Roulston tackle, yet the Blues continued to press forward with ten men.
Hard work and solid organisation prevailed as Belper saw out the remainder of the game and claimed another valuable three points.
Leek Town: Chapman, Smith, Bell (Mellor 88), Thomas, Bradbury, Hall , Brannan, Shelley, Grice (Morris 45), Kinsey, Danylyk. Unused subs: Connor.
Belper Town: Chapman, Roulston, Wright, Cotton, White, Adams, Harrison (Adam 16), Warne, Froggatt, Tuton (Ward 74), Graves. Unused subs: Thomas, Rushbury, Ratcliffe.
Referee: Joe Hull (Stockport)