Three years ago to the day, Northwich Victoria were celebrating a famous televised FA Cup victory over Charlton Athletic at a packed Victoria Stadium in the Northwich suburb of Wincham.
Wayne Riley’s strike, nine minutes from time had sent the Vics supporters into ecstasy and the future looked rosy.
Wind the clock forward to the half-deserted terraces at Stafford Rangers’ Marston Road stadium, Vics’ current temporary home, and it is no wonder their supporters can hardly believe what has happened to their illustrious club.
Only 91 hardy souls, including probably half from Belper, watched as Vics’ demise was illuminated in the clearest possible way.
The Nailers dominated the opening 45 minutes, with thehosts showing little of the passion and belief their much-suffering supporters should have rightly expected.
Indeed, the Nailers’ task would have been made much easier than it was, had the referee and linesman both spotted a clear second minute goalline handling offence by Joe Guest, from a header by Jared Stephens.
An early Simon Harrison shot was blocked by Vics’ keeper Ryan Robinson in a bright Belper opening before the missed handling offence exercised the vocal chords of the Belper players.
Shaun Tuton continually tormented the Vics’ defence in the opening half and it was no surprise when he latched onto Colin Marrison’s header down to drill the ball into the net after 32 minutes.
Minutes later, he had a glorious opportunity to add to his tally but his first touch was slightly heavy.
Northwich winger Lee Dodgson then deserved a better reward after intricate footwork took him through a host of defensive challenges but his final shot flew just wide as Northwich eventually started to make inroads into the game.
A double substitution just after the interval sparked Vics into life and, for 20 minutes, the hosts gave the Nailers’ a stern examination.
Under increasing pressure from the hosts, the Nailers succumbed to an equaliser after 64 minutes when Michael Connor powered in a header.
But this Belper team is made of sterner stuff nowadays and they refused to buckle.
In the 75th minute, Shaun Tuton bustled his way through before laying the ball off to Jared Stephens who in turn found substitute Richard Stirrup and he was able to walk the ball into the net.
Vics were then reduced to nine men when Christian Peach received a second caution and Joe Guest was handed a harsh straight red for a challenge on Shaun Roulston.
Vics’ misery was further compounded following the match when manager, Andy Mutch and his assistant, Adriano Rigoglioso, resigned their positions - another body blow for a club striving for stability and for their long-suffering supporters.