Last week was one of surprises for supporters of Belper Town and it all started with a heavy home defeat against Quorn and ended with another against Grantham Town.
Home league defeats have become all too familiar this season, but two events that happened in between will have a significant effect on the last few weeks of the season.
Manager Andy Carney’s decision to step down had been made the day after the Nailers had lost heavily to Quorn. This was presumably delayed until the Nailers had played their President’s Cup semi final against Newcastle Town, and their relatively comfortable passage into the final was no doubt some consolation to Carney and his outgoing management team.
Unfortunately performances such as these have been all too rare this season, especially at Christchurch Meadow but it will give Carney immense satisfaction if he can retain the trophy and go out on a high.
There is no doubt that his tenure has been mixed with success and disappointment, but he hasn’t been able to meet the considerable expectation that was placed upon him at the start of this season.
Winning the Derbyshire Senior Cup and agonisingly missing out on promotion to the Premier Division the season before last will undoubtedly come high up in his management cv. Add to this another Derbyshire Senior Cup final and capturing the President’s Cup last season suggests that Carney has a winning mentality, that sadly hasn’t manifested itself often enough in his players this season.
There are many supporters who will be sad to see the amiable former goal keeper leave Christchurch Meadow, but the harsh reality is that a club of Belper’s stature has been left behind when you consider the progress other local clubs such as Alfreton, Eastwood and Matlock have made.
But the progress of Mickleover Sports who were playing minor league football not so many seasons ago has focused everyone’s minds on the plight of the Nailers who have stagnated in what is now the Evo-Stik Division One for fourteen seasons.
The decision as to who takes over at the end of the season will be a difficult one because a well known name may require a bigger playing budget that the club can realistically afford.
The club’s reduced budget announced at the start of the season was initially welcomed by Carney but a succession of signings from lower leagues suggests a different story, although there will always be examples of managers who have performed miracles on little available money.
It would have been nice to have seen a reversal of home league form for the last five home fixtures but last Saturday’s defeat against a solid Grantham side only reinforced what was known already; that the current team isn’t quite good enough.
The Nailers have the opportunity to complete a hat trick of victories over Newcastle this week when the Stoke-based side return to Christchurch Meadow (Tues 15), and then the Nailers travel to Sutton Coldfield’s ground for the second time this season to face Romulus.
President’s Cup final arrangements have been announced and the climax of the competition will take place at Witton Albion’s Wincham Park ground against Lancaster City on April 5. The club will be operating a coach for this game and interested parties should book a place on the list that has been placed on the club’s official notice board.
The coach will leave the ground at 5pm and the fare has been set at £8 per person.