A weekday return to the Racecourse this Tuesday for a catch-up fixture with Allestree Juniors Marseille. A sunny yet cold and windy evening and having won the toss we elected to start the match playing with the wind and backs to the low sun.
Our subs rotation plan went out of the window after three players called in sick and the boys started the match knowing they would be on the pitch for the full 60 mins. Their key focus for the match as well as conserving energy where they could, was to hold their positions, support each other out of possession, move the ball quickly into the wide areas when we were attacking. Stay calm and composed. Our experience told us Allestree were a strong side that we had never beaten.
Gold Sox started confidently and grew into the game. Ball movement was excellent. Two well matched teams, playing some very enjoyable football. Constant pressure on Allestree’s goal keeper gave us the lead with an excellent tap in from Lewis Billington resulting from some confident skill and speed on the right-hand wing. We built on our lead with some dominant periods of possession, but unfortunately the lead was not long lived as Allestree equalised within ten minutes, and we came in at half time 1-1.
Our message to the boys at the break was to deliver more of the same and get ahead again quickly to avoid chasing the score line. Five minutes in, sublime pass from Leo Turner who we had switched from left to right wing, ball into Giacomino Pilia who beat the keeper: 2-1 to Belper.
If it had been tense before, it got a whole lot worse after! With no substitutes it was clear we were beginning to tire. Much of the play moved into our half and Alfie Bryan, Ben Lomax and Dermott O’Donnell in defence came into their own. Some fantastic defending against a very strong front line of attack kept us in the game.
And then, as fate would have it, an opposition player strikes the ball straight at Alex Hughes in the box which whacks his arm on the way through and for our second match on the trot, the referee gives a controversial penalty. In my very humble opinion it is very clearly ‘ball to hand’ and we call for VAR!! Allestree score from a very well taken penalty and it’s all to play for. 2-2.
Belper manage to keep their heads in the game after the set-back, but for the final few minutes their bodies are failing! Half the team could barely stand with the energy exerted, and we have no options to make changes. At this point Allestree have a second wind and in the closing minutes they score an all-important goal to win the match.
Full credit to both teams. A very well-fought match. Allestree are a great team that play similar style of football to Gold Sox and with the right spirit. A draw would have been a very fair result today, but it was not to be. One of the best performances of the season though. Great to see the passion and drive in the boys who were clearly very disappointed to lose when they had played so well.