Belper Town 1
Belper Town can’t have too many complaints about Saturday’s defeat against in-form Stamford, who deserved their win, even though the margin of their victory was a little flattering.
The Nailers travelled to Wothorpe Road without three regular first team players with Karl Colley and Colin Marrison suspended and Shaun Tuton unavailable, and the loss of these crucial team members proved to be too much for Belper to overcome.
Played in constant rain and not on the best of surfaces, the first half was an even affair with very little to choose between the teams.
Mark Ward nodded on a fifth minute Simon Harrison free kick straight to Matt Finlay and eventual matchwinner Ricky Miller saw a seventh minute free kick headed out for a corner kick in an otherwise uneventful first 15 minutes.
While Stamford seemed slow out of the blocks, Belper adapted to the conditions and forced the Daniels into one or two unforced errors.
Aaron Pride worked the ball well down the right flank before putting over a dangerous cross on 17 minutes, and a good passing move two minutes later ended with a flashing drive just past the far post from Richard Stirrup.
Richard Adams struck a good shot from the edge of the penalty area that was well covered by Matt Finlay, but in the 27th minute the game turned on a rather harsh decision by the referee to award a free kick against Greg Wright for a handball.
Belper’s good start to the game was spoilt when Ricky Miller nodded Danny Brooks’s free kick just inside the post.
Almost immediately, Simon Harrison had a chance to equalise but put the ball high over the top after a free-kick came out to him. However, in the 30th minute, Richard Adams presented Ricky Miller with a glorious chance by putting a headed clearance to his feet, and with Dave Ratcliffe out of his goal the Daniels’ striker steered his shot just inside the post.
The Nailers certainly didn’t deserve to be two goals down and they managed to pull one back in the 40th minute when Mark Ward headed the ball accurately into the goal after Andy Rushbury’s challenge on the ‘keeper, and shot that was kicked off the line rebounded out.
Stamford kicked off the second half playing in their favourite direction and from the off it was clear that Belper would have their work cut out.
Gary King had the ball in the net after an uncharacteristic error by Dave Ratcliffe, however the referee’s assistant had his flag up for offside.
Jared Stephens’s shot on the turn drifted over the crossbar on 52 minutes and the Nailers were missing the pace and penetration of Shaun Tuton, who was away enjoying 21st birthday celebrations.
The Daniels extended their lead on 58 minutes when Belper were undone by a long ball out of defence but all credit to Ricky Miller, who completed his hat-trick with a nice finish into the bottom corner.
Belper’s challenge was virtually extinguished in the 64th minute when Richard Adams was instantly red carded for what seemed on first sight a clean sliding tackle on Ricky Miller, but the referee saw it differently and without seemingly taking the conditions into consideration, sent Adams off.
The Nailers resorted to damage limitation after this as there was no way they would get back into the game now, and in the 87th minute Ricky Miller capped a impressive goalscoring performance with a crisp shot into the corner from a corner kick.
Matt Finley saved a well-struck free-kick from Richard Stirrup free kick in the final minute, but this was definitely not one of the Nailers’ better afternoons and they will need to pick themselves up quickly if they are to force their way into the play-off positions.
Stamford: Finlay, Maddox, Mayo, Jacklin, Jones, Brooks, Staff (Smith 73), Ozmen, King, Miller (Cotton 90+1), Hall. Unused subs: Batchelor, Gibson, Hamilton.
Belper Town: Ratcliffe, Pride, Wright, Stirrup, Adams, Roulston, Harrison (Gowing 77), Warne, Ward (Froggatt 66), Stephens (Deakin 90), Rushbury. Unused subs: Owen, Chapman.
Referee: Ben Cooke (Atherstone)
(Photo by Tim Harrison)