Belper Town beaten by Stafford Rangers despite battling display

Phil Watt wins the ball. Pic by Tim Harrison.
Phil Watt wins the ball. Pic by Tim Harrison.

Stafford Rangers wrapped up a 1-0 win despite Belper throwing everything at them in the second half.

Ben Haseley scored the game’s only goal midway through the first-half as Nailers ‘keeper Danny Haystead could only parry Levi Rowley’s header and Haseley was on hand to stab the ball home from close range.

Haystead, who was making his 50th appearance in goal for the Nailers, went someway to redeeming himself on the stroke of half-time, brilliantly keeping out Christian Dacres’ strike from the edge of the box.

The Nailers ‘keeper was also celebrating his 30th birthday, but it was not the end to the game he would have wished for. Rangers forward Ryan Wynter collided with Haystead in the final moments which led to him being replaced by back-up stopper Charlie Mansfield.

Deep into stoppage time Stafford substitute Jake Jones went down from what looked an innocuous challenge, he was subsequently taken on off on a stretcher as he returned to action after a four month lay-off.

Both sides defended valiantly, especially the visitors in the second-half as Belper threw bodies forward to try and find the elusive equaliser.

The Nailers best chance of the game fell to centre-half Phil Watt, Ross Parker flicked on Louis Keenan’s long ball and Watt found himself in acres of space but he could only head over from eight yards out.

Despite the uncomfortable end to the game there was a lighter moment five minutes into the second-half, referee Sean Richardson bounced off Stafford’s Stuart McNaught and blew his whistle to halt the game as he caught his breath on the muddy Marston’s Stadium pitch.

On a day littered with injuries, both sides were forced into a change in the opening half-hour. Rob Stevenson being replaced by Kyle Bryant for the Nailers.

Stafford’s Peter Till pulled a hamstring taking a free-kick and which paved the way for the returning Jones.

Belper did everything in their power to find an equaliser but the visitors held firm, Captain Eric Graves had a half-volley well saved and Parker had an effort saved with the last action of the game.

The win takes the Boro’ 17 points clear of Coalville at the top of the Evo-Stik Division One South table despite their Leicestershire rivals still having four games in hand.

Belper Town: Haystead (GK) (Mansfield 90’), Allen, Keenan, Parker, Palmer, Watt, Stevenson (Bryant 19’), Graves, Watkis, Williams, Steadman.

Unused subs: Leggitt, Armstrong, Constable.

Stafford Rangers: Whitehouse, Melbourne, Wood, Miles, Daniel, McNaught, Rowley (Reid 76’), Dacres, Wynter, Haseley (Rooney 89’), Till (Jones 32’).

Unused subs: Cater, Johnson.

Attendance: 421.

Referee: Sean Richardson.