Belper Town manager Peter Duffield has spoken of his pride after the Nailers were promoted to the Evo-Stik Northern Premier league for the first time in their history.
They defeated Mickleover Sports in the playoff final on Saturday afternoon, a wonderful occasion witnessed by a crowd of over 1,000 supporters.
The game itself didn’t prove to be a memorable 90 minutes, with the only joy coming for defender Phil Watt as he stabbed the ball home from close range in the second half, which proved to be the only goal of the game. However, what came after were scenes of happiness and joy for those who have waited so long for this day to come.
With the Nailers falling at the semi-final hurdle last season, and the final hurdle two years prior to that, it seemed written in the stars that Belper Town FC were to win promotion on this occasion. A defeat in the final league game of the season to the newly-crowned champions Halesowen Town ensured the Nailers travelled to Leek Town for the semi-finals.
And with Mickleover beating Coalville against all the odds, the unlikely final between the teams that finished fourth and fifth respectively meant Belper were set to play the final on their home ground at Christchurch Meadow.
On a day of success for Belper came congratulations and thanks all round. Club chairman Alan Benfield placed on record his thanks to Paul Waldron for his tremendous work throughout the season, insisting the club would not have witnessed promotion on Saturday had it not been for Mr Waldron’s hard work and generosity.
And manager Peter Duffield, who becomes the first manager in history to take Belper Town to the Northern Premier league, placed on record his thanks to all involved in the success, and most importantly, the supporters.
“I’m very proud. I’m so proud for the people of Belper Town, who have never seen a day like this before, and they’ll remember this for the rest of their lives.
“The players have made themselves legends, which is fantastic. As for the players, we’re so proud of their achievements. Me, and the staff push them so hard and demand so much of them. When they do it, it’s great, and when they don’t do it, we push them and we shove them until they do it right, and today they’ve hit new heights.
“The game itself was poor, especially from our perspective, and Mickleover were better than us. But what matters is we got the win and that’s all everyone will remember.
“Next season will be exciting, but we don’t want to think about that just yet, we just want to enjoy this moment as we fully deserve it over the season we’ve had.”
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Duffield concluded by thanking club chairman Alan Benfield, for the support given to him from the very start of his journey. “For me, Alan Benfield is the one who I am mostly chuffed for. He has supported me throughout, and he has put so much into this Football Club and he deserves the success it’s achieving, so I’d like to thank him tremendously for his work.”
Personal accolades have also surrounded the Nailers this season, as Jon Froggatt won the Supporters Player of the Year Award for the club, as well as the Divisions Golden-Boot Award for his remarkable 36 league goals, 40 in all competitions. Jon Froggatt and defender Phil Watt were also named in the division’s team of the season last month, earning country-wide recognition for their achievements.
Phil Watt stated his pleasure at scoring the goal that has taken the Nailers to new heights, claiming he never even dreamed of scoring the winner in the final. “I can’t believe it. To score the winner in the final is amazing given the quality of strikers out there on the pitch. It’s something I never even dreamed would happen. To keep a clean sheet today and in the semi-final too is equally important for the team and myself, as that is my main job on the field. And by doing so, all it took was a single goal to win us the final. I’m absolutely buzzing and I can’t wait for next year as there are some big teams there to play.”
So, with the season done and dusted, and lathered in success, the Nailers now take a well-earned break from football and will enjoy a relaxing summer ahead. However, one thought that will not leave the minds of all involved, will be the anticipation of leading their team out in the Northern Premier League next season, for the very first time.