First Division South
Belper Town 1
Lincoln United 1
JON Froggatt’s first half goal was sufficient to earn Belper Town a point as Lincoln United pushed the Nailers all the way to the final whistle.
Belper manager Andy Carney made changes to the side that lost the President’s Cup final in midweek, with Charlie Weir, Lee Thompson and Nicky Darker being left on the bench and there was no place at all for Paris Simmons.
Liam Davis, Aaron Pride and Andy Rushbury were elevated to the starting line up as the Nailers embarked on their final six remaining league fixtures.
The game kicked off in bright spring sunshine and play was end to end in the early stages.
Andy Rushbury put an a good cross to the near post in the 5th minute but Phil McGann collected the ball safely on the goal line.
The visitors then forced a series of corner kicks that the Nailers defended solidly, then in the 10th minute Jamie Smith almost put Ruben Wiggins-Thomas through, and although he had the ball taken off his toe it ran to Darryl Thomas, whose effort was charged down.
A nice reverse pass from Darryl Thomas sent Jamie Smith on his way in the 16th minute but his cross went straight to a Lincoln defender, then moments later Jon Froggatt had time and space to hit an angled shot goal bound but uncharacteristically, his poor ball control saw it run out of play.
Jamie Smith drew applause with a long range effort that just went past the post and as Belper increased their momentum they opened the scoring on 19 minutes when Ruben Wiggins-Thomas broke clear, and his low drive to the far corner was turned in by Jon Froggatt who had run unseen into the six yard area.
Lincoln nearly levelled the scores in the 24th minute when George Zuerner had an opportunity as he ran unchallenged into the penalty area, and not for the first time this season, Ali Barcherini came out quickly to make an important save.
Scott Coupland wrestled his way into a shooting opportunity in the 31st minute as Lincoln pushed the Nailers back, but fortunately his shot on the turn went wide although the visitors had found some extra momentum in the final 15 minutes of the first half.
There was another close call in the 37th minute when Stuart Reddington got to Jack McGovern’s free kick and nodded the ball just past the foot of the post.
The visitor’s finished the half by forcing two consecutive corner kicks, but the Nailers’ defence stood firm to hold a slender lead at the break.
Belper began the second half keen to give themselves some breathing space by getting a second goal, but the first real effort came from Lincoln’s Sam Mullarkey whose shot from the edge of the penalty area fizzed just past the upright.
Jamie Smith’s shot, after he latched on to a huge clearance from Ali Barcherini caused McGann problems at the foot of the near post but he managed to deal with the ball by scrambling it away for a corner.
Shortly afterwards Lincoln missed one of their best chances of the afternoon when the ball dropped kindly for George Zuerner but he volleyed a good opportunity over the bar.
The Nailers were struggling to clear the ball in the 58th minute and Lincoln scored a simple equaliser when Sam Mullarkey slotted the ball into the far corner with ease.
There looked to be a strong penalty claim moments later when Ryan Porter appeared to push over Darryl Thomas as a ran towards goal, but the referee would have none of it, and then Ruben Wiggins-Thomas looked to be impeded just prior to flashing a cross shot just past the far post.
Andy Rushbury had McGann sprawling to his left in the 66th minute with a bobbling shot just past the upright, but this was virtually Rushbury’s last involvement as both he and Ruben Wiggins-Thomas were replaced shortly afterwards.
Belper tried to step up the pace and go for the victory and Luke Fedorenko might have done better with a header at the far post in the 80th minute after Darryl Thomas found him with a perfect cross.
Luke Fedorenko and Liam Davis hit wild shots from good positions as the Nailers continued to apply pressure in the latter stages.
Barcherini touched over an overhead kick from Sam Mullarkey in the 89th minute, but the ball was soon returned up field to win a corner with Matt Plant ballooning a half chance over the bar.
The visitors finished strongly by winning yet more corner kicks and the referee’s whistle came just at the right time as the Belper defence was beginning to look a little vulnerable.
However this was a good performance considering Lincoln’s good run of form recently that included two wins over the league leaders, and Andy Carney’s team changes appeared to be vindicated.
Belper Town: Barcherini, Pride, Davis, Thorpe, Plant, Adams, Wiggins-Thomas (Weir 70), Smith, Froggatt, Thomas, Rushbury (Fedorenko 67). Unused subs: Barnard, Thompson, Darker.
Lincoln United: McGann, Fleming, Smith K, McDaid, Porter, Reddington, McGovern (Boyce 82), Bull, Zuerner (Funnell 75), Mullarkey, Coupland. Unused subs: Wright.
Referee: Andrew Barney of Coalville.
Match sponsors: Deb Group
Man of the match: Jon Froggatt.