Belper Town reached the final of the Derbyshire Senior Cup for the first time since 2010 with a gritty performance against Heanor Town at The Town Ground.
The Lions, currently in second place in the Midland League, pushed the Nailers all the way in a pulsating semi-final and it needed a resilient defensive performance from Charlie Palmer’s side to negotiate their way to a well-deserved cup final appearance.
Belper made a strong start to the game kicking up the slope and might have taken the lead on two occasions in the opening 10 minutes when Jonathan Williams and Rob Stevenson had reasonable chances, but both put their shots over the bar.
The Lions shocked Belper with their first real attach attack in the 12th minute when Charlie Mansfield beat away an angled drive only for Karl Demidh to head the rebound into an unguarded net.
The Nailers responded with some impressive man to man passing and were duly rewarded four minutes later when Rob Stevenson’s crisply hit volley from the edge of the area took a decisive deflection leaving Lions’ custodian Joe McCormack helpless on his line.
The remainder of the half proved something of a stalemate as both teams cancelled each other out and both ‘keepers remained largely untroubled.
The Nailers had the slope in their favour after the break and before most spectators had time to focus on the start of the half, Belper had taken the lead.
The hard working Ben Watkis collected a long pass inside the Heanor penalty and turned the ball into the path of Alex Steadman.
Steadman cut inside and unleashed a precision shot that nestled inside the far post and again the Lions’ ‘keeper was unable to do a thing about it – this after barely a minute from the restart.
In truth this turned out to be one of the few times that the Nailers posed any sort of threat in the Heanor penalty area, as the home side robustly set about trying to get an equaliser.
To their credit they tried everything from trying to pass their way through and by aerial bombardment, but it’s hard to recall any clear cut chance being created, and the Belper rear guard were exceptional in preserving their lead.
Rob Stevenson went closest to getting another goal for Belper with a 30 yard run and shot on 62 minutes, while Kieron Debrouwer volleyed a difficult chance over the bar for Heanor 10 minutes later.
The Nailers have beaten Matlock Town and a highflying Glossop side before defeating Heanor in the semi-final which is a great testament to the work that Charlie Palmer, coaching team and players have put in over the last few months.
The Nailers can now look forward to the final, against either Alfreton Town or Gresley FC.
Heanor Town: McCormack, Marriott, Bowler, Bettney (Smith 61), Hall, Booker, Harris (Moran 69), Naylor, Demidh, Debrouwer, Cooper. Unused subs: Abdollahi, Warner and Seale.
Belper Town: Mansfield, Bryant, Keenan, Parker, Palmer, Watt, Stevenson (Allen 65), Armstrong (Leggit 45), Watkis, Williams, Steadman. Unused subs: Kabanje, Taggart and Haystead.
Referee: Richard Eley (Derby).