Nailers confirm play-off place
By David Laughlin
Belper Town sealed their place in the end of season play-offs with a thoroughly professional display against Romulus at Coles Lane.
It was also the first time that the Nailers had won on the ‘plastic’ pitch in six attempts including games against Sutton Coldfield Town who are the hosts of the Roms in a ground sharing arrangement.
Needing a win to confirm their play-off place, Belper manager Peter Duffield left out Andy Rushbury and switched brought Greg Wright in at left back with Shaun Roulston coming in on the opposite flank.
Romulus was in a good spell of form having gone seven games without defeat and hauling themselves away from any relegation worries.
The Roms were also mindful of a 9-0 thrashing dealt out by the Nailers in mid November and no doubt fancied their chances of upsetting a Belper side who have steamrollered over almost everyone in recent months.
When the Nailers start with high tempo then there is usually a happy outcome and this game was a classic example with a phenomenally high work rate from the players for almost all of the 90 minutes.
Belper are a pleasure to watch when all their players are on song and bearing in mind the number of games this squad have chalked up, they demonstrated immense energy and desire to win.
A far post free kick in the 7thminute nearly almost produced a goal when Simon Harrison ghosted in and put the ball the wrong side of the post.
Shaun Tuton worked the ball well for Eric Graves to shoot in the 15th minute, and although the ball went just wide it was only going to be a matter of time before the Nailers would take the lead.
Despite the almost total dominance an opportunity wouldn’t present itself, although Glyn Cotton’s excellent turn and cross was only inches away from the head of Simon Harrison.
Roms’ Ashley Jackson had two good runs down the left both resulting in low cross shots that the Nailers had to be alert to defend, however in the 28th minute Belper demonstrated the classic breakaway goal.
Shaun Tuton provided the assist after being sent away with a ball down the touchline and he picked out his striking partner Jon Froggatt, who needed two attempts at forcing the ball over the line after Matthew Coton blocked the first one.
Gregg Wright hooked over a tantalising cross into the six yard area where Simon Harrison was on hand to head the ball just over the cross bar and although the Nailers continued to dominate until the break, Aaron Chapman had to produce a piece of brilliance to save a Marcus Brown shot, hit through a group of players.
Romulus had their best spell of the game in the ten minutes following the restart, but the Nailers closed ranks and snuffed out virtually everything the Roms had to offer.
Luke Keen was unfortunate with a volley on the turn on 48 minutes that would have been a goal of the day contender had it been just inside the upright rather than just outside it, then Sean Robinson tried to thread a 15 yarder through a forest of legs on 52 minutes without any luck.
Belper’s second goal came in the 56th minute and showed everything that is good about this Nailers side who are playing with supreme confidence’
Simon Harrison put Shaun Tuton in possession and he took the ball to the bye line before knocking the ball short to Jon Froggatt.
While Luke Keen was claiming the ball had gone out, Froggatt turned and squared the ball to Glyn Cotton who made sure with a low shot into the net.
With the hard work done and no way back for the hosts, Belper set about getting a third goal to round things off.
Jon Froggatt hit a powerful drive straight at Matthew Coton on 70 minutes, and Belper continued to push and probe the Romulus defenders until they unpicked them gain on 76 minutes.
Jon Froggatt turned provider for Shaun Tuton who ran on to his striking partners short forward pass, and he cut inside past the ‘keeper and kept his concentration before sliding the ball over the line from 10 yards.
Victory against Leek next Saturday will seal third place for the Nailers and guarantee a home fixture against the fourth placed team.
Romulus: Coton, Evans, Ravenhill (Wynter 77), Robinson, Francis, Turton, Jackson (Diaby 80), O’Callaghan, Keen, Brown, Amory (Clarke 71). Unused subs: Smith, Exall.
Belper Town: Chapman, Roulston, Wright, Cotton, White (Rushbury 80), Adams, Harrison (Thomas 84), Warne, Froggatt, Tuton (Ward 84), Graves. Unused subs: Adam, Ratcliffe.
Referee: Grant Taylor (Stratford upon Avon)