First Division South
Ilkeston FC 0
Belper Town 1
Belper Town made an excellent start to 2012 by taking all three points from Ilkeston in front of a bumper Bank Holiday crowd at the New Manor Ground.
There wouldn’t have been too many people in a gate of 844 that would have predicted this result going into the game, but the Nailers worked extremely hard for this victory and despite the advantage that the Robins’ had in possession, they just couldn’t break down a resolute Belper defence.
Manager Peter Duffield gave Glyn Cotton his debut following his signing from Goole last week and he replaced Ben Leonard who was injured.
Aron Wint came back into the side after missing the Boxing Day defeat against Sheffield through injury, while former Nailer Russ Peel was on the bench for the home side.
It was a fairly even start to the game with Ilkeston’s Matt Richards’ 5th minute free kick being dealt comfortably by the Belper defence, while Aron Wint’s free kick three minutes later saw Ashley Longstaff’s header go just wide.
The Nailers kept possession well in the early stages and Glyn Cotton’s effort in the 13th minute was the end product of a good passing move on the edge of the Robins’ penalty area.
James Reid caused an anxious moment on 23 minutes when he was allowed to make a 25 yard run towards goal but he hit a wild shot well wide of the target, which was the first of a number of opportunities squandered by the home team
A period of uneventful play followed as both teams cancelled each other out in attack and midfield, but as the half progressed, Ilkeston began to pressure the Belper goal.
James Reid sent in a free kick on 34 minutes that hit an Ilkeston player and fortunately went wide, and then soon afterwards Matt Richards snatched a half chance and put the ball over from 12 yards.
The Nailers won a corner kick in the 42nd minute and Richard Adams should have found the target when he had a free header from a Chris Adam corner kick.
Belper managed to get through to the break unscathed although Richards put another chance wide and Jack Watts’ free kick missed the target as the half went into added on time.
As expected there was pressure from the home side at the start of the second period and full credit should be given to Belper who defended in strength and looked well organised.
Richard Adams and Dan White did a sterling job on Gary Ricketts who was kept quiet for most of the game, and if it wasn’t for the promptings of Matt Richards in the Robins’ midfield it would have been more comfortable for Belper.
A testing 20 minutes or so produced nothing for the home side and in fact some excellent play from Deon Meikle in the 65th minute might easily have resulted in a goal for the Nailers.
He somehow slipped past two Robins’ defenders before picking out Ashley Longstaff just inside the penalty area, and the Belper striker was denied by a brilliant diving save from Dan Lowson who just got to the ball as it seemed destined to go just inside the upright.
Ilkeston renewed their efforts after this but in doing so left more and more space for Belper to beak as the Robins pushed further up field.
Gavin Saxby just got to a looping Matt Richards header in the 69th minute and pushed the ball around the post, but despite all the activity that was going on in front of him, he had been exceptionally well protected.
Deon Meikle hit a tremendous effort inches wide from at least 20 yards on 82 minutes after side stepping his marker and letting fly with his left foot. and as Belper began to increasingly trouble Ilkeston in the latter stages, Chris Adam struck a fine shot from further out and Lowson was fortunate to have the opportunity to claim the ball at the second attempt.
But then Belper stunned the majority of the crowd by snatching the lead in the 88th minute when substitute Jordan Turner showed a great turn of pace to chase a through ball that the Robins’ ‘keeper looked odds on to get to first, but Turner managed to get there a split second quicker and emerged with the ball leaving him the easy task of rolling it into the empty net.
A renewed effort from Ilkeston didn’t bring them an equaliser but Gavin Saxby was instrumental in preserving the points with a fine save at full length as the game entered added on time.
The Nailers left the field to rousing applause from their supporters who acknowledged the considerable effort put in by the players to record a magnificent double over much fancied Ilkeston FC.
Ilkeston FC: Lowson, Cullingworth, Wilson, McGuire, Partridge, Cooke, Watts, Richards, Ricketts, Waite (Osei Siribour 55), Reid.
Unused substitutes: Robinson, Caskey, Wilcox, Peel.
Belper Town: Saxby, Pride, Weir (Wright 33), Meikle, Adams, White, Wint, Cotton, Froggatt (Turner 79), Longstaff, Adam.
Unused substitutes: Rushbury, Simpkins, Richmond.
Referee: Nick Hopton (Derby)