Nailers cement their play-off hopes
Belper Town strengthened their grip on a play-off place with a comfortable win over challengers Northwich Victoria and in doing so extended their unbeaten run to 21 games.
Jon Froggatt nets his 21st goal of the season put the Nailers in front against Northwich Victoria (Picture: Tim Harrison)
Nailers’ manager Peter Duffield brought back midfield player Glyn Cotton in place of the suspended Colin Marrison and Shaun Roulston replaced Greg Wright at right back.
Belper were looking to extend their phenomenal unbeaten run and knew if other results went their way they could confirm their place in the play-offs.
Vics still had an outside chance of getting to the play-off finals themselves although ideally, they would need to take maximum points away from Christchurch Meadow.
The Nailers made a lively start and pushed Northwich back in the early stages.
Dan White hooked the ball over the cross bar in the opening exchanges and then Glyn Cotton was fouled on the edge of the box but Jon Froggatt’s shot was comfortable for Steve Dickinson in the Vics’ goal.
Richard Adams then met a Simon Harrison corner kick but put his header the wrong side of the post but at this stage the Nailers were looking the better side.
There was a minor scare for Belper when Kevin Leadbetter burst through but he hit his shot straight at Aaron Chapman who saved at the second attempt.
Belper took the lead in fine style in the 27th minute with a move that started inside the Nailers’ half when Glyn Cotton found Shaun Roulston on the touchline.
Roulston sent Shaun Tuton away down the right and he found Jon Froggatt unmarked on the corner of the six yard area and Belper’s leading scorer provided a clinical finish.
Good interchanging of passing put Simon Harrison in with a clear chance on the half-hour mark and although he struck his shot cleanly, Steve Dickinson made a smart diving save.
Kevin Leadbetter might have beaten a ‘keeper of lesser stature than Aaron Chapman when he hit a dipping volley that looked destined to drop into the net but the Belper ‘keeper was able to grasp the ball.
Great work from Shaun Tuton led to Belper’s second goal on the stroke of half time when he took the ball around the ‘keeper and unselfishly laid it into the path of Jon Froggatt who tapped the ball over the line from close in.
Eric Graves hit a snap shot just wide as the Nailers began the second period on the offensive, and Belper tightened their grip on the game when they scored a bizarre third goal on 51 minutes.
Simon Harrison’s free kick wasn’t cleared by the Vics defence and the ball bounced against the upright leaving Dan White only needing to tap the ball over the line to score.
But Belper were guilty of ball watching in the 58th minute when the Kevin Leadbetter had time to toe-poke the ball past Aaron Chapman.
The Nailers nearly restored their lead moments later when Eric Graves had a powerful shot headed off the line by Niam El Harrati then Andy Rushbury fired over when under pressure from the same defender.
Belper could have wrapped things up in the 70th minute when Shaun Tuton ran clear but with Jon Froggatt unmarked at the far post he put his cross-shot too near the ‘keeper and the opportunity was lost.
Vics enjoyed more possession in the last 15 minutes of the game and the Nailers were having to defend more diligently, however Mark Ward was in a good position to extend Belper’s lead when he put his shot well wide of the far post.
Josh Amis forced a good save from Aaron Chapman deep into added on time but this had been a comfortable win for the Nailers who had probably expected a much tougher contest.
Belper Town: Chapman, Roulston, Rushbury, Ctton, White, Adams, Harrison (Wright 90), Warne, Froggatt (Ward 86), Tuton (Thomas 80), Graves. Other subs: Godber, Ratcliffe
Northwich Victoria: Dickenson, El Harrati, Mooney, Duggan, Mercer, Summerskill, Harries, Amis, McEvatt, Wisdom, Leadbetter. Other subs: Alexander, Kilford, Middleton, Taylor, Nicholls
Referee: Paul Hobday (Tipton)
Match Sponsors: C D R Plant Hirers
Man of the Match: Jon Froggatt