Belper Town’s defensive frailties were again ruthlessly exposed by ten-man Ramsbottom United as the Nailers fell to a 4-2 defeat that leaves them rooted to the foot of the table.
Manager Jon Froggatt named the same side that lost to Rushall Olympic in midweek afterRegan Edridge declared himself unfit ahead of the game.
Chris Jones again missed out as he recovers from a broken toe, whilst Rob Stevenson was also absent following his head injury suffered against Blyth Spartans.
This latest defeat was a prime example of the problems facing the Nailers in their inaugural season in the NPL top flight.
Scoring goals is not a problem for Froggatt’s men, particularly with the Nailers being the fourth highest goal scorers in the division.
The problem is that they cannot stop goals from haemorrhaging at the other end, with no less than 35 being conceded in the opening 14 matches.
It would be easy to blame the defence, but the team attacks as a unit and should defend as one, but the gap between defence and midfield is often too great which allows teams to exploit the gaps in between.
As was the case against Rambsottom, the Nailers are at their most vulnerable when they are attacking the opposition.
Once an attacking move breaks down, the team has often been exposed to the quick breakaway and paid the penalty on a number of occasions.
At Ramsbottom, the homes side’s fourth goal was a classic example of this, as Jordan Hulme raced away down the right and sent over a perfect cross for substitute Jon Robinson to plant a free header past James Martin.
The game stared badly for the Nailers as they fell behind after just three minutes when Dominic Smalley outpaced Colin Marrison to sweep in a low cross to the far post, where Philip Dean tapped the ball into the net from close range.
But, to the Nailers credit, they responded well to the early blow and found an equaliser after six minutes when Aaron Cole’s deep cross was deftly headed into the net by Belper player/boss, Jon Froggatt.
Philip Dean was a handful for the Nailers defence all afternoon, but they were powerless to prevent the diminutive winger from restoring Rammy’s lead after 16 minutes when he unleashed an unstoppable effort from 30 yards that left James Martin grasping thin air.
It was a goal of sublime quality, which deservedly drew applause from all around the Harry Williams Riverside Stadium.
Aaron Cole almost repeated the feat moments later, but this time Rammy ‘keeper Grant Shenton just managed to get his fingertips to the ball to deny the Nailers winger.
But the home euphoria suddenly turned to despair when United’s central defender Cedric Krou was handed a red card for fouling Bruno Holden as the Belper striker ran onto a superb through ball from Froggatt.
Ian Ross confidently converted the spot kick to give the Nailers parity again with 22 minutes on the clock.
It had been a breathless opening quarter and despite their one-man disadvantage, Ramsbottom continued to create space and cause problems for the Nailers.
Steve Howson sent a 25-yard free kick just over the Belper crossbar and Dean dithered when presented with another goal scoring opportunity as the Nailers defenders eventually cleared their lines.
But, just when it looked as though the teams would remain level at the interval, Dean delivered a defence splitting pass to Osebi Abadaki, who confidently drove the ball into the far corner of the net to give United a narrow advantage after the break.
With a numerical advantage and the slope in their favour in the second half, hopes were high that the Nailers would be able to salvage something from the game.
But the omens were not promising when Grant Spencer sliced a great opportunity high and wide just minutes after the resumption.
Jon Froggatt glanced a header just wide of the post from Ian Ross’s superbly flighted free kick but despite having the majority of second half possession and territorial advantage, that was as close as Belper came to threatening the Ramsbottom goal.
James Martin saved at full stretch when United substitute Tom Williams unleashed a ferocious effort that looked destined to increase Rammy’s grip on the game.
Then, true to form, the Nailers saw an attacking movement broken up as Hulme capitalised on the wide open spaces and delivered a perfect cross to Jon Robinson whose precise header finally deflated any hopes of the Nailers gaining any reward from the match.
There were genuinely good moments for Belper in this game as they continue to play a tidy passing game, but until their defensive inadequacies are resolved, the season is likely to continue to represent a frustrating experience for the Nailers faithful band of supporters.