Evo-Stick League NPL Division One South
Lincoln United 1
Belper Town 1
By Nigel Oldrini
BELPER Town left it very late to salvage something from this game and it was Lee Morris’ 95th minute leveller that ensured that the Nailers earned a share of the spoils.
Joaquim Ortuno was given his chance to impress as Tommy Taylor named him in the starting eleven and it was Jamie Smith who made way.
The Nailers have had reasonable success in their last few visits to Ashby Avenue, however under the new leadership of Terry Fleming, the Whites had a renewed sense of urgency that had seen them make a good start to the new campaign.
At first it was all Belper as they sent in a number of crosses that were capably dealt with by the Lincoln United rearguard, but the Nailers were soon to experience the speed and incisiveness of their new look hosts.
Losing possession in midfield, particularly in the first half nearly cost them dear as Lincoln were deadly on the break, and in the 11th minute Andy Richmond made the first of a series of saves when Scott Coupland’s effort from outside the penalty area needed a save at full length from the Belper ‘keeper.
Richmond pulled off a magnificent point blank save to deny the experienced Brendan McDaid two minutes later, then James Stokes forced another great stop as the Nailers buckled under the unexpected onslaught. Lincoln pulled Belper all over the place in the 14th minute and Chris Funnell lethally punished the Nailers with a flashing drive across the face of goal and into the far corner of the net.
The Nailers were reeling after this and could have conceded again in the 17th minute when Funnell broke clear to strike a shot just over the cross bar.
Belper were desperate to buy some time and regroup, and to their credit increased the tempo to match that of their exuberant opposition.
In fact a terrible blunder from Sean Wright let Ruben Wiggins-Thomas in with a golden opportunity to level the scores on 30 minutes but with just the ‘keeper to beat, he suffered a crisis of confidence and showed too much of the ball to Craig Turner.
The Nailers survived another Funnell breakaway on 36 minutes when he shot wide, but it was a more confident last 10 minutes for the Nailers who knew they had still everything to play for after the break.
It was an energised Belper side that emerged for the second half although they firstly had to repel early pressure from Lincoln who knew that they should have had a stronger grip on the game than their one goal lead suggested.
The Nailers kept the ball and found their men much better in the second 45 and jacked up upped their work rate to exceed that of their opponents at times.
Gradually they began to wear Lincoln down by stretching their wearying defence using both flanks to good effect.
Lee Morris’ overlapping run in the 62nd minute didn’t produce a goal that the Nailers needed but his cross was dangerous enough to give Lincoln cause for concern and give Belper a boost in confidence.
Ruben Wiggins-Thomas was denied by Turner in the 64th minute and as the pressure increased on the host’s goal, the greater the expectation of an equaliser.
Joaquim Ortuno after a hesitant start, began to express himself more frequently and in the 73rd minute ghosted past two players in midfield before unleashing a tremendous effort that crashed against the upright.
Lincoln survived a frantic goal mouth melee as the game approached the 90 minute mark, but it was beginning to look that a second away defeat was looming.
However to Belper’s credit they never gave up and thanks to a generous allocation of additional time by the referee, Lee Morris smashed the ball in following a 95th minute corner kick.
It was only what the Nailers had deserved after the tremendous fight back and hopefully they will reproduce this form more frequently in the games ahead.
Lincoln United: Turner, Coyde (Reddington 45), Fleming (Smith K 74), McDaid, Wright, Stokes, McGovern, Bull, Funnell, Troughton (Hempenstall 70), Coupland. Unused subs: Leverett, Raby.
Belper Town: Richmond, Adams, Magee, Camm, Plant, Hannigan, Wiggins-Thomas, Meikle, Froggatt, Morris, Ortuno (Rushbury 85). Unused subs: Smith J, Spargo, Pride, Thorpe.
Referee: Christopher Akers (Doncaster)