Impressive Belper Town bolstered their growing reputation by bagging their second win on their travels this season in Division One South of the Evo-Stik League.
A fine first-half display, coupled with a pair of excellent strikes from Alex Steadman and debutant Leandro Browne, earned the Nailers a 2-0 victory at mid-table Bedworth United on Saturday.
They also showed terrific defensive qualities in the second period when Bedworth came to life, with a solid rearguard helping to inflict a first home league defeat on the Greenbacks.
After their sticky start to the campaign, which included three home defeats, the match offered more evidence that Belper are mow moving in the right direction. The three points lifted them to 16th in the 22-team table, six off the bottom and only three points behind the top five.
Chris Budrys’s departure to Flint Town in midweek resulted in the Nailers picking Steadman and Kieran O’Connell to lead the line, and the match also offered an opportunity for the long-awaited first appearance by Browne, whose drawn-out international clearance had finally come through.
Belper took time to adjust to the artificial pitch that graces The Oval at Bedworth and during this period, they might have gone behind from a fierce Levi Rowley strike inside the first minute and a run by experienced former Mansfield Town striker Iyseden Christie run that was terminated in the nick of time.
But after this, the Nailers embraced the playing surface, used it to their advantage and proceeded to take the lead with a perfectly constructed goal on 17 minutes. Dominic Allen sent a testing, inswinging cross to the far post where Sam Birks pulled the ball back for Steadman to blast into the net from ten yards.
Steadman nearly created a second goal four minutes later when his run to the byline resulted in a pull-back to Birks on the edge of the six-yard area. But he got the ball tangled up under his feet before he could get a shot away.
Bedworth were rattled at this stage and struggled to keep up with Belper’s mastery of the pitch and, in the 29th minute, another terrific move ended with a fine drive from Allen just over the crossbar. More delightful play ensued and Haydn Goddard was unlucky with a drive from more than 20 yards that shook the bar.
Another goal seemed fitting to crown Belper’s first-half display and it duly arrived in the 39th minute when Browne finished brilliantly with an angled drive after the ball had broken kindly for him.
It was always going to be harder after the break as Bedworth, stung no doubt by the words of their manager at half-time and the substitution of some under performers, brought about a vast improvement in their efforts.
Luke Rowe’s free-kick caused Belper problems after 51 minutes as the Greenbacks threw everything at the visitors, although a little more composure from Birks a few moments later might have sealed the win for Belper with almost 40 minutes to spare.
As it was, the home side dominated and won a string of corners and free-kicks, all ably defended by the Nailers with goalkeeper Danny Roberts superb in the six-yard area.
Luke Keen went closest for Bedworth with a shot on the turn that clipped the outside of a post and in a pressured last ten minutes, both Keen and Richard Blythe should have at least hit the target. Instead they contrived to fire wide.
At the other end, Dexter Atkinson’s trickery almost let in Steadman for a third Belper goal in the dying moments, but ‘keeper Daniel Crane prevented further embarrassment for the home side.
LINE-UP -- BEDWORTH: Crane. Smith, Brehon (Bailer-Nicholls 58), Parrott, Cartwright, McAteer, Albrighton (Rowe 45), Blackmore, Christie (Keen 88), Rowley, Blythe. Unused subs: Dudley, Downie.
BELPER: Roberts/ Thornberry, Allen, Graves, Hunt, Guy, Birks (Atkinson 69),Goddard, Browne (Barr-Rostron 88), O’Connell (Garnett 74), Steadman. Unused subs: Hunt, Rathbone.