IT HAS been an inconsistent Christmas and New Year period for the Nailers who have struggled to find form despite a rousing victory at the New Manor Ground on Bank Holiday Monday where they frustrated Ilkeston to win by the only goal of the game.
That was a bright spot in the midst of another two worrying home defeats against Sheffield on Boxing Day and Coalville Town last Saturday.
It was fairly even for much of the Sheffield game but during the second period Club admittedly looked the more accomplished outfit but the Nailers were culpable in their downfall albeit the clinching third goal was a cruel deflection, however manager Peter Duffield felt that his side could have won the game.
“We had the chances to build a lead and squandered them and paid the price,” he said, “however although it was disappointing not to have got something from the game, I was happy with the effort the lads put in and consequently I have protected them from any criticism.”
It was a real backs to the wall effort at Ilkeston although the Nailers did have their moments in the early stages of the game and matched their more illustrious opponents in the first half.
It became more difficult after the break but a Nailers’ rearguard with Dan White giving a stand out display in the centre of defence looked solid and secure, and limited the Robins to only a couple of opportunities.
Gavin Saxby did his part on the few occasions Ilkeston got close, but the home side made a crucial tactical error by throwing too many players up front and got caught on the break thanks to the persistence of substitute Jordan Turner.
Unfortunately it was the same old story at Christchurch Meadow last Saturday when they slumped to a 2-0 defeat against a Coalville side below them in the table and having had a poor run of results.
The Nailers started the game well enough and dominated the first 25 minutes, but their failure to get even close to scoring took its toll as the Ravens began to get a foothold in the game.
To be fair neither side looked capable of scoring and a goalless draw looked on the cards, but the Nailers’ home jinx struck again in the last ten minutes when a wonder strike from Ravens’ skipper Cameron Stuart almost burst the net from 20 yards, and then former Holbrook Sports striker Karl Demidh blasted a second goal in from a similar distance.
“It was disappointing not to have carried things forward from the Ilkeston game and I was hoping that we could put together a decent run of results on the back of it,” said Duffield.
“We started really well and for 20 minutes or so there was only one team in it, but for reasons I can’t explain, our performance went flat and in the end lost to two cracking strikes.”
“We didn’t create much in the way of chances which is unusual for us and to be fair we didn’t do enough in the game.”
“We know we have to do better and we will keep working at it until we get it right,” he added.
Quite often the question arises as to whether there are any of the current crop of reserve team players likely to make the step up to Evo-Stik level this season and Peter Duffield had the following comment to make.
“Two or three reserve team lads have been invited to train with the first team and are doing so on a regular basis,” he said.
“Unfortunately, because the reserves usually play at the same time as the first team I haven’t had the opportunity to watch them in person yet, but I’m in contact with the management team so I’m acting on their recommendation.”
“I want to give some of the lads an opportunity to see what they can do but while we are struggling on the field I’m reluctant to throw them in there, because I want them to have a positive experience.” Belper have nine more league fixtures at Christchurch Meadow, all against teams that are currently mid-table or thereabouts, and the opportunity is there to put in a strong finish to the season if they can win the majority of these.
In fact, only Sheffield and Stamford out of the remaining seven away fixtures could be highlighted as potentially difficult games, and Belper still have the opportunity to finish the season in some style.
Peter Duffield hasn’t rested in his search for better players over the Christmas period.
With Colin Marrison and Ben Leonard both nursing injuries he moved quickly to secure the services of Goole’s Glyn Cotton who made his debut at Ilkeston.
Since then Dominic Allen has joined the club on a ‘work experience’ basis from Burton Albion and Alton Rennalls has been signed from fellow Evo-Stik South club Shepshed Dynamo.
Aaron Pride starts a three game suspension following his dismissal against Sheffield on Boxing Day so he will miss the home fixtures against Kidsgrove (14th), Newcastle Town (21st) and Loughborough (March 4th).
The Nailers are without a game on January 28.