Belper dig deep to earn replay
By David Laughlin
Belper Town had to dig deep at the New Manor Ground but a gritty performance earned them a second chance against Ilkeston Town in the FA Cup with Budweiser on Tuesday evening.
Belper manager Peter Duffield made one change from the side that has been performing so well in recent weeks with Richard Stirrup’s unavailability giving Ben Leonard a rare opportunity to start.
It was pleasing to see Jon Froggatt named amongst the seven substitutes allowed for FA Cup games, but he wasn’t deemed fit enough to play any part in the game.
The Robins had former Belper player, Daryll Thomas in their forward line and he was to play a significant role in the ensuing 90 minutes of fast paced football.
The Nailers made a positive start and a dangerous cross from Aaron Pride in the 3rd minute was cleared by Ilkeston and from the resulting corner kick, Jordan Ball headed over the cross bar.
Both teams moved the ball quickly on the excellent playing surface at the New Manor Ground but neither goalkeeper was troubled as play tended to concentrate between the two penalty areas.
The Nailers had looked marginally the better side in the opening stages and surprised the Robins with a goal in the 16thminute.
Ryan Mallon’s curling cross into the box was nodded on by Jordan Ball and Ben Leonard muscled his way to the edge of the six yard area and jumped to head the ball under the cross bar.
Ilkeston had appeared to lack attacking ideas up to this point and James Reid’s wayward effort in the 19th minute suggested that eventually, something much better would come from Kevin Wilson’s men.
But Belper might have added to their score on 22 minutes when a long throw from Richard Adams reached Ben Leonard who had a free header but couldn’t find the target.
Robins’ skipper Matt Richards stirred the quiet Ilkeston supporters with a deflected header on 28 minutes that went for a corner kick, and suddenly it was noticeable that the home side were slowly clicking into gear.
For a cup-tie, the atmosphere was very low key and Jordan Ball could have stunned the home support in the 38th minute when he sneaked between the two central defenders and for a split second had a clear shot on goal.
But Ilkeston centre back Joe Maguire took the ball off his toe with a perfect interception and within seconds the Nailers were picking the ball out of their own net.
Right back Joe Wilcox went off on a tremendous run in the 39thminute, beating at least three Belper players before releasing the ball to Daryll Thomas who swept the ball in at the far post to level the scores.
The goal spurred Ilkeston on and with their supporters in full voice, the Nailers found themselves on the back foot and forced to defend.
They fell into the trap of getting caught in possession and giving the ball away and suddenly the Robins began at last, to look like a team from a higher division.
The half time break came at a good time for Belper, who like at Matlock two weeks earlier had needed to regroup, but the second period also saw them struggle to contain a more confident Ilkeston side.
Simon Harrison was guilty of giving the ball away in the 52ndminute giving Joe Wilcox the opportunity to overlap and get a cross in, but fortunately James Reid missed the target with his header.
Aaron Hooton ran through and fired over the top soon afterwards and Jack Watts’ 55th minute effort hit the outside of the far post.
The Robins were looking dangerous with each attack, and moments after Colin Marrison’s shot had gone straight to Ashley Timms, Daryll Thomas looked to have severely dented Belper hopes when he streaked through to latch on to a long pass and fire past Aaron Chapman.
But just as it seemed that all was lost for the Nailers the game swung back in their favour when substitute, Ashley Longstaff powered a 70thminute far post header in off the underside of the cross bar from a perfect Simon Harrison corner kick.
The tie suddenly became very open and now it was Ilkeston’s turn to show moments of anxiety.
The Nailers sliced open the Robins’ defence on 85 minutes and Andy Rushbury hit a fine effort into the side netting, and then Ashley Longstaff stormed his way between two defenders in the final minute of normal time and only the slightest deflection prevented the Nailers getting a dramatic winner.
However Ilkeston came close to having the final say when Matt Richard’s curled a 94th minute free kick around the defensive wall, but Aaron Chapman was alert enough to push the ball around the post.
The teams face each other again on Tuesday evening in a much anticipated replay at Christchurch Meadow.
Ilkeston Town: Timms, Wilcox, Wilson (Peel 22), Chambers, Partridge, Maguire, Watts, Richards, Hooton, Thomas, Reid (McCall 76). Unused subs: Storey, Ford, Osbourne, Osei-Siribour, Martin.
Belper Town: Chapman, Pride, Wright, Leonard (Marrison 57), Adams, Colley, Harrison (Rushbury 76), Warne, Ward (Longstaff 57), Hall, Mallon. Unused subs: Simpkins, Roulston, Froggatt, Ratcliffe.
Referee: Duncan Carratt (Rotherham)