Ten-man Belper Town’s Evo-Stik South season began with a 1-0 defeat to one of the title favourites, Basford United — with a saved penalty and red card not helping their cause.
After fighting hard in the early stages of the game, the Nailers were finally broken down when Lewis Carr headed home a good delivery from James Reid in the 70th minute to snatch all three points for the visitors.
The home side had held on bravely up until that point with Eric Graves pulling off a spectacular goalline clearance just after the break as Basford began to find some momentum in the second half,
Belper had a good opportunity to take the lead just before the break, but Alex Steadman’s spot-kick was saved by the legs of Saul Deeney to keep it level at half-time.
The opening game of the campaign wasn’t without controversy as Nailers’ full-back Joe Hunt was sent off after the referee decided he had prevented a goalscoring opportunity by handling just inside the Belper half.
The referee didn’t initially give the decision, but after consulting with the assistant referee he chose to dismiss the player.
Despite Basford controlling the later stages of the game, Belper had more than matched Basford throughout the first half.
It looked as if Belper would take the lead on 20 minutes as the ball fell to John Guy in the box, but his two close-range efforts were both blocked by Basford defenders.
Keeper Danny Roberts played his first game for Belper after the former Witton Albion man joined two days earlier.
He made some excellent saves to keep the Nailers in contention, including a spectacular push on to the crossbar from a long-range Reid strike.
The Nailers are suffering a minor injury crisis, which left them without a forward on the bench for the curtain-raiser as Matt Harris, Laurence Constable and Alex Steadman led the line.