Central Midlands League
Premier Division South
South Normanton Ath. 1
Belper United 1
BELPER United became the first team to emerge from Lees Lane with any points this season, league leaders South Normanton having won all eight games prior to this one.
There was plenty of early action and in the first five minutes Athletic’s Briscoe and O’Connell combined well and Briscoe burst clear but was denied by an excellent one-handed save by United keeper Jablonski.
This provided a wake up call for United and the centre half pairing of Slater and Bacon began to impose themselves on the prolific Normanton strike duo.
Hemmings was also influential for United and with the lively Wadsworth and Brewster they began to take control of midfield and create chances.
McRobie failed to connect with a cross before Brewster had a shot comfortably saved by the Normanton keeper McKenna.
United were looking ominous and Hemmings burst through from midfield only to be felled on the edge of the 18 yard area by Chambers. The resulting free kick was blocked by the wall and the resulting corner was met well by McRobie but he failed to hit the target.
Belper enjoyed a good spell of pressure and looked to have gained a penalty when Payne was brought down as he burst into the box but the referee judged there to be no infringement much to the disbelief of the United players.
The opening goal came on 32 minutes when Brewster whipped in a low cross to find Wheeler whose shot hit the post, but McRobie was on hand to slot the ball home for a deserved goal.
Belper continued to press but the score remained 1-0 at half time.
After a stern talking to at half-time, Athletic came out in determined fashion for the second half and they put Belper on the back foot.
Nicholls and Blount in midfield for the hosts tried to impose themselves and looked to release their forward but United’s rearguard was comfortable and restricted the Shiners to long range efforts.
United weathered the storm and began to hit Normanton regularly on the break, Wheeler’s pace causing the defence endless problems as did Brewster’s surging runs from midfield and these two players were involved in the game’s biggest controversy.
Brewster burst forward and released Wheeler with a neat through ball, the United forwards shot was blocked but when he followed up and shot past Mckenna a Normanton defender clearly handled the ball away off the line.
The United players all appealed in unison and the Normanton players froze expecting a penalty but again the referee refused what looked to be a stonewall penalty.
he United management duo of Watson and Palombo were apoplectic as not only was the penalty denied but the player would have had to be dismissed which would have given United a strangle hold on the game.
The incident seemed to spur on Normanton and they pressed forward, United held firm until the 73rd minute when a long range effort by Normanton sustitute Roberts skidded underneath the diving Jablonski and trickled over the line.
The United keeper should have done better and he cut a disconsolate figure as he picked the ball out of the net.
The game provided few more clear chances United forced a series of corners but failed to trouble Mckenna in the home goal and Normanton had a couple of long range efforts but failed to hit the target.
The final whistle brought an end to an entertaining and eventful game which was an excellent advert for the Central midlands football league
United came away from the game feeling like they had lost two points rather than gained one which shows what a very good team performance this was against the clear league leaders on their own territory.
The match official kindly explained later why he hadn’t given the penalty. He apologised if he had “missed the hand ball but said he didn’t see it and could only give what he saw”.
Whilst it was disappointing, it was refreshing that the officials were prepared to discuss decisions gaining much respect by doing so.
Belper United have a home fixture at Alton Manor this Saturday, November 26 against Southwell City.
Kick-off is 2pm.