The Nailers suffered their sixth straight defeat at the hands of Barwell FC on Saturday afternoon at Kirkby Road to continue their worst spell of the season.
After a fortnight off without a competitive game, it was a new-look Nailers that took to the field against the Kirkby Roaders, with senior players such as Jon Froggatt, Steve Warne and Aaron Pride being dropped to the bench, as Ben Turner, Connor Marshall, Scott Matthews and Jamie McGhee all made their debuts.
While the new players all require a bedding-in period, it was perhaps the most nondescript performance of the season so far, with only four meaningful attempts at goal proving any sort of threat throughout the 90 minutes.
The first chance of the game came after eight minutes for the home side.
Alex Tomkinson, who proved a danger throughout the game, struck a half volley from inside the box which was grasped by the grateful arms of Martin on his goal-line.
Tomkinson then curled a neat free kick towards the target six minutes later, but once again his strike fell comfortably for the reliable Nailers goalkeeper.
However, on the 21st minute, Alex Tomkinson got his rewards for persistence, and scored the only goal of the game, giving his side a much deserved lead.
The ball was worked in to the box from right to left by Jamie Towers, and a mix up in defence for the Nailers proved costly as Tomkinson caught Martin off his line, to delicately chip him from ten yards out, with the ball landing in the bottom right hand corner.
The game then hit a sticky patch as both sides worked hard to try and gain control, as neither were able to do so for the remainder of the first half.
Belper then created their first two decent chances of the game close to half time.
The first coming through the industrious Jamie McGhee as he teed up Jonathan Williams on the edge of the box to strike at goal, only for his shot to be closed down well by the defender.
The Nailers were able to keep up the pressure and right-back Ben Turner tried his luck from twenty-five yards, but was unable to force the ball beyond the plunging bodies inside the penalty box.
The second half proved a struggle for both teams as neither side were able to create a good spell of pressure against the opposition.
Nigel Julian and Ant Carney both came close for Barwell as they saw their efforts flash inches wide of the post either side of the hour mark.
James Martin was then forced into action again against the menacing Tomkinson as his effort was tipped wide by the Belper ‘keeper on this occasion.
McGhee then produced the Nailers finest moment going forward on the 75th minute as he saw two chances go amiss inside the Barwell penalty box.
This first chance came after some neat skill by McGhee to work himself half a yard of space before unleashing the shot, which in turn was blocked well by the defender.
McGhee picked up the pieces to earn a second bite at the cherry as this time he cut back onto his left foot from the right hand side of the penalty box, and neatly curled an effort towards the far corner, only to see the ball go despairingly past the post.
The game then witnessed a moment of madness with ten minutes left of play, as the on-rushing Martin made a fine save to dive down at the feet of Towers, coming away with the ball, only for the referee to award a penalty for an apparent foul on the number nine, after no appeals were made beforehand.
As expected, the Belper players surrounded the referee in disbelief, while the home side couldn’t believe their luck.
However, the controversy didn’t end there as Barwell goalkeeper Liam Castle stepped up to take his teams’ penalty, which was saved magnificently by Martin down to his right hand side.
Then, with the Barwell ‘keeper along way from home, Martin pumped the ball forwards for a Belper attack, and the referee stopped play for an apparent foul on a Nailers players outside his own penalty area, without allowing the play to continue.
The match then wore out in a rather sorry state, and Barwell came close one last time with a brilliant effort from Malcolm Melvin with struck the bar from distance.
Barwell FC: Castle, Woodward, Nisevic, Jenno, Towers, Julian, Tomkinson, Melvin, Towers, Brehon (Colley 67), Carney. Subs: Hood, Hadland, Rickards.
Belper: Martin, Turner, Matthews (Pride 88), Marshall, Adams, Watt, Ross, Towey, McGhee, Stevenson (Froggatt 64), Williams (Lister 64). Subs: Varley, Warne.
Referee: Joe Clark (Walsall).