It has been a mixed and busy week for the Nailers who won through to the semi finals of the President’s Cup last Tuesday evening, but then lost more ground in their attempt at finishing in a play off spot at the end of April.
Two well-taken goals from Darryl Thomas either side of a Jon Froggatt penalty completed a tremendous fight-back to see Harrogate Railway Athletic off 3-2 to send the Nailers through to the semis a step near to retaining the trophy that they won by beating Stamford in last season’s final.
It looked all over after Harrogate went 2-0 ahead early in the second period but when Thomas netted his first from what seemed an impossible angle, the game turned the Nailers’ way. A sparkling last 25 minutes had the Railwaymen severely under pressure and when Thomas slotted in the winner with five minutes to go victory was assured.
Manager Andy Carney reflected: “It was a good comeback for us and I’m pleased we’re in the semi final. We enjoyed the run to the final last season and if we could retain the President’s Cup this time around it would be a great achievement.”
Belper now have to wait until the remaining quarter final ties take place before knowing who stands in their way of a second consecutive final. Newcastle Town are in the last four after beating Glapwell 1-0.
The Nailers now find themselves ten points adrift of a play off spot as the league table currently stands after last Saturday’s home defeat against Kidsgrove.
The Staffordshire side completed the double over Belper with the narrowest of margins, and once again the Nailers were left questioning how they lost the game after playing so well.
Make no mistake, Kidsgrove are a solid all round side and were well worth a point, and although chances were at a premium at both ends, Belper missed the few clear cut ones they had and were unlucky in hitting the wood work twice.
However this was a good display by Andy Carney’s men who played with two new signings in the back four.
He said: “It was a good game of football and both sides played well so although I’m disappointed about the result, I can’t fault the performance.
“I thought we defended really well throughout and Ali (Barcherini) made some excellent saves, as did their ‘keeper, but a draw would have been a fair result.”
Matt McKenzie made his debut against Harrogate and supporters may remember his very brief stay four or five seasons back, and Liam Davis arrived at Christchurch Meadow from Goole AFC and put in a promising display at left back.
He has not seen much action of late. Carney explained: “Matt’s not played much in the last few months so he needs games. He’s a strong lad and just what we need in the middle of the back four.
“Liam also needs games to get his fitness levels up but for his first game he did well for us.”
Following the new arrivals, Aaron Pride can consider himself unfortunate to be left out, while Lee Thompson’s experience may have tipped the balance especially as his preferred position is on the right.
The Nailers looked much more comfortable at the back and when both newcomers settle in, the goals against tally should greatly reduce.
Kidsgrove’s winner was well-constructed and brilliantly taken by Aiden Matranga and Ali Barcherini, who had pulled off three or four brilliant stops from long range efforts, didn’t have a chance with this one.
The hunt for new players is unlikely to stop with the arrival of McKenzie and Davis, as Andy Carney has a number of other players in his sights and is he awaiting the decisions of two or three targets this week.
He has already secured the services of utility man Danny McPherson who will be available on an ‘as and when’ basis but can’t commit totally due to his work commitments.
This coming Saturday the Nailers travel to strugglers Shepshed Dynamo who have been at the foot of the table, or thereabouts most of the season.
For Belper though, a trip to the Dovecote has traditionally been a tricky one regardless of where Dynamo are situated in the table, however, hopefully this time the Nailers will come away with three points.
Next Tuesday evening the Nailers travel to Harrison Park to face Leek Town who have surprised most people by finding it hard going this season and they too occupy a lowly league position after starting as one of the favourites to do well after finishing last season strongly.