Cup final appearance can’t gloss over facts

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HIGH profile departures at the end of last season meant that the wind of change blew strongly through Christchurch Meadow during the close season, and this included a significant change in the Nailers’ management team too.

Joint manager Danny Hudson decided that he couldn’t continue working alongside Andy Carney because of his work commitments leaving his former managerial partner to restructure the playing side of the club on his own.

With only half-a-dozen or so of the previous season’s squad staying on at the Meadow, Carney faced a considerable rebuilding task and for the first practice game only three of the starting line up had appeared in the final league game at the end of April.

A number of players who started in the friendly at Parkhouse soon moved on, but such was the process of trying to build a settled squad capable of performing at Evo-Stik Division One level.

It has to be said that Andy Carney didn’t have the success he wanted even though the Nailers had a good pre-season that augured well for the new campaign.

It started with an away fixture at newcomers Sutton Coldfield, but it was a disappointing opening day for Carney and his new Belper Town side as they slipped to a 3-1 opening day defeat.

Their first home game ended 0-0 against Carlton Town and then there was embarrassment in the FA Cup when, for the second season running Belper lost to local rivals Holbrook Sports, although this time the Brookies needed only one attempt to see off the Nailers and did so quite convincingly by 3-1.

A creditable 1-1 draw followed at Sheffield following the Holbrook debacle and then a very welcome first win of the season at home to Loughborough Dynamo started September on a more positive note.

The Nailers played well at Stamford to earn a 2-2 draw and then stunned a confident Goole outfit at the Victoria Pleasure Grounds edging out the Vikings by a single goal.

A really good performance was required to see off a very capable Glapwell side, but the Nailers’ lack of consistency showed at Rushall Olympic when they lost a close encounter by the odd goal in five.

The Evo-Stik League cup went badly wrong in front of their own supporters when Glapwell returned with the intention of proving a point and stuck five past a weakened Nailers side, and then another team returned to haunt Belper in the next game when Goole stole three points in the corresponding league fixture, also with a 1-0 victory.

Belper’s cup form fell through the floor once more when basement Division One North Harrogate Rail beat Belper at Christchurch Meadow in the FA Trophy on the first Saturday in October, but some confidence was restored with an away win over promoted Rainworth Miners Welfare in the next game.

The Nailers lost another home game by a single goal, this time to Brigg although struggling Shepshed Dynamo were finally overcome by 2-1 after the Leicestershire side looked set to inflict another demoralising home defeat over an erratic Belper side.

Belper’s defence of the President’s Cup started well with a 2-1 home victory over Quorn but in the league fixture a few days later, Belper put in a poor display and ended October with a 2-0 defeat.

November started well with great win at the Hawthorns to exact revenge over Brigg Town, and the Nailers discovered their scoring touch with a 4-1 win over Romulus that was followed up by a 5-0 demolition of Spalding and a 6-0 President’s Cup win at Lincoln United.

But the Nailers’ inconsistency returned on 20th November when a strong Kidsgrove side put four goals past Belper to record a 4-2 victory and then came four consecutive Saturday’s of inactivity as the wintry conditions meant that Belper lost six league games in all due to postponements.

One bright spot in this bleak period was a successful trip to the very north of the county where the Nailers came out of hibernation to beat a strong New Mills side, who were to go on and become Northwest Counties League champions in the 3rd round of the Derbyshire senior Cup with a convincing 4-1 score line.

When the Nailers resumed their league programme in January it began with a New Year’s Day home defeat by Sheffield then a surprising 3-0 away win at Carlton.

The Nailers then alarmingly conceded 5 goals in consecutive games against Stamford at home and then Loughborough away, but then played much better against Buxton despite going out of the Derbyshire Senior Cup at the Silverlands.

Belper scraped a 1-0 win at basement club Spalding and followed this up with a great win over Harrogate Railway to reach the semi finals of the President’s Cup.

Two more home league defeats followed against Kidsgrove and Sutton Coldfield, then a mini revival began with a 2-0 win at Leek, 2-1 at Lincoln and most impressively a victory by the odd goal in five at highflying Newcastle.

Demoralising home defeats followed though against Rushall and Quorn, then the enigmatic Nailers saw off Newcastle again with a 2-0 home win to reach the President’s Cup final.

Andy Carney’s announcement that he would leave the club at the end of the season sparked off a four game run of defeats and the Nailers lost all of their league games in March, four of them at home.

April began well with a 5-1 thrashing of Market Drayton Town, but they couldn’t carry their momentum into the President’s Cup final against Lancaster City at Witton Albion’s ground where they came out a poor second best by losing 3-1.

The Nailers played well in defeat at Barwell and Grantham, then did the double over Market Drayton and gained their first ever league win at Glapwell in their penultimate league game.

It would have been nice to have ended the season on a hat-trick of victories but Belper’s awful home form let them down again when they conceded five goals for the fifth time, against Leek Town.

Belper’s home form really let them down this season as they only won six of their 21 games and amassed just 21 points against 32 gained away from Christchurch Meadow.

Only the two relegated clubs lost more games at home, a trend that must clearly change if the Nailers harbour promotion hopes next season, while on the other hand their away record was bettered by only six clubs. .

It was difficult to pick out many players who had preformed consistently well enough over the season to be in contention for a player of the season award.

However, Jon Froggatt’s contribution stood out a mile and his 30 goals combined with ceaseless effort put into each and every game made him the obvious choice for the supporters’ and manager’s player of the year award.

There were other outside contenders in Ali Barcherini who had a good season between the posts while other squad members such as Matt Plant and Lee Thompson put plenty of effort in.

Ruben Wiggins-Thomas and Darryl Thomas, both talented players flitted in and out of form and between them, could have made a huge difference to Belper’s final league placing if they converted just 10 per cent more of the chances created.

But all too often the whole team fell below the standards required to fulfil play-off ambitions.

A final placing of 14th was disappointing in the end and defeats in the first rounds of the FA Cup and Trophy are just not good enough for a club of Belper’s standing, although to reach the President’s Cup final for the second successive year with some impressive performances along the way was undoubtedly the highlight of the season.