Belper put up a good fight against league leaders Bowdon on Sunday, before eventually falling to a narrow 1-0 defeat.
Belper’s eighth fixture of the NOW:Pensions Conference North season looked their toughest assignment to date with the high-flying leaders rolling into the Meadows on the back of an unbeaten start.
However, Belper put in a solid shift that underlined their progress since the season’s start.
Some flattering results for the opposition of late have disguised the fact that the Belper squad are steadily beginning to gel and realise their ability.
This improvement culminated in a superb performance against Bowdon, beginning with a rousing team-talk from vice-captain Steven Batten, a change of tactics and crucially a high level of intensity not yet seen this season.
The hosts took the game to Bowdon from the start, not giving them a moment on the ball and in truth, controlled the entire first half including countless interceptions.
Bowdon were only rescued by a pacy, 20th-minute drag-flick from England international Simon Egerton as they ensured they went into the break with a slim advantage.
Despite Belper’s dominance, coach William Murray was keen to impress on the squad that the second half required more of the same and that performance levels were not to dip.
And as instructed, the Nailers continued to press hard and work tirelessly - with debutants James Callaway helping to shore up the defence and ‘keeper Gavin Adams making some fine saves.
The second half saw almost an exact replica of the first, with Belper dominating proceedings and allowing Bowdon no time to settle.
A steady flow of one-two passing earned the home side numerous goal attempts and a raft of penalty corners.
Unfortunately, Belper just couldn’t convert despite Sam Dixon delivering accurate drag-flicks at a ferocious pace.
Despite the game finishing in favour of Bowdon, the Nailers appear to have turned a corner with a much-improved performance across the board.
The Nailers travel to Leek on Saturday (2pm).