Evo-Stik League NPL Division One South
Belper Town 2
Sheffield FC 2
by Nigel Oldrini
Belper Town had to fight back from being two goals down for the second successive league game, and still await their first Evo-Stik win of the season.
The Nailers retained the same starting line up that won so convincingly in the FA Cup two days earlier, and they had new signing Richard Stirrup from Stocksbridge on the bench.
The visitors had two players from the Nailers’ squad that were at Christchurch Meadow last season with Chris Adam and Charlie Weir both being named in the starting eleven.
It was an even start to the game although the Nailers weren’t far away from taking the lead in the 3rd minute when Ashley Longstaff turned sharply just inside the penalty area and shot just past the upright.
A rash challenge from Colin Marrison gave Sheffield an opportunity to loft the ball into the penalty area but Steve Woolley’s effort flew harmlessly to Aaron Chapman.
Both sides put together good moves in the opening 15 minutes or so without seriously troubling either ‘keeper although in the 18th minute Simon Harrison tried his luck from just outside the penalty area, but his shot went just wide of the far post.
Richard Adams did well to muscle Vill Powell out of a shooting opportunity in the 19th minute, and then moments later Ben Leonard nearly turned a Simon Harrison cross in at the near post.
However, in the 24th minute Sheffield took the lead under unfortunate circumstances when Vill Powell took advantage of an unintentional knock on by a Belper defender and had the relatively easy task of firing past Aaron Chapman.
Simon Harrison saw a 27th minute effort deflected wide of the target as the Nailers sought to get back on level terms, then in the 33rd minute Ashley Longstaff burst through and missed the post by a whisker.
Shaquille McKenzie had the ball in the Belper net but was called fractionally offside, then Vill Powell appeared to be in an offside position when he ran through on 37 minutes, but fortunately he put his shot well wide.
The Nailers had a good shout for a penalty when a Sheffield defender appeared to handle a fiercely hit free kick by Simon Harrison, and at this stage the Nailers were doing their utmost to get back on even terms.
The second period started as openly as the first half had been with both sides playing box to box in very few passes.
Vill Powell tried an overhead kick in the 51st minute and it wasn’t too much longer before manager Peter Duffield made his first change in bringing on Ryan Mallon in place of Jordan Ball.
But it was Sheffield who went further ahead in the 60th minute when Matt Roney was on the end of a fine move to blast the ball past Aaron Chapman from 10 yards.
However, the Nailers were back in touch two minutes later after Jamie Hadfield’s diving ‘save’ from Ashley Longstaff’s header not only earned him a red card but gave Colin Marrison the opportunity to score from the resulting spot kick.
A sense of urgency, up until now noticeably missing, was evident in the Nailers’ play and although they were getting plenty of balls into the box the weren’t getting any breaks.
But in the 77th minute the ground erupted when Simon Harrison’s perfectly judged free kick dropped into the far corner of the net to give the Nailers every reason to suggest they could go on and win the game.
Ryan Mallon nearly got the winner on 83 minutes when he struck a well timed volley off Colin Marrison’s header but Nick Draper was in the right place to block the shot.
The Nailers were pressing forward at every opportunity now and making the most of their numerical advantage, but time was fast running out for Belper who eventually had to settle for a share of the points for the third league game running.
Belper Town: Chapman, Pride, Wright, Leonard (Stirrup 67), Adams, Colley, Harrison, Warne, Longstaff, Ball (Mallon 55), Marrison.
Unused subs: Rushbury, Ratcliffe.
Sheffield FC: Draper, Turner, Weir, Thompson, Hadfield, Burrell, Adam (Roney 24), Foster, Powell (Stephens 75), McKenzie (Cardwell 63), Woolley.
Unused subs: Knowles, Martin
Referee: Craig Taylor (Wednesbury)