Belper Town earn a Boxing Day point at Sheffield

Riece Bertram (left) battles for possession at Sheffield on Boxing Day. Photo by Tim Harrison.
Riece Bertram (left) battles for possession at Sheffield on Boxing Day. Photo by Tim Harrison.

Belper Town had to settle for a point in the Boxing Day clash against Sheffield FC, but could have claimed maximum points if Evan Garnett had converted a penalty kick late in the game.

Manager Grant Black drafted in Kyle Bryant at right back in place of Harley Kozluk as the Nailers looked to build on their two consecutive victories and consolidate their position as one of the League’s front runners.

Spectators were treated to a lively Bank Holiday encounter with both teams enjoying varying good spells with the only surprise being that there weren’t more goals in the game.

Rieves Boocock missed a half chance for the hosts in the fourth minute and soon afterwards Ted Cribley’s solo run and shot wasn’t too far away.

Belper’s first meaningful efforts came courtesy of Derry Robson in the eighth minute when he first had a shot blocked from Nathan Curtis’s cross then his follow up effort sped past the far post.

As the Nailers pressed forward they were rewarded with a goal in the 11th minute when Curtis’s snap shot from a corner kick was kicked into the net by Sheffield’s Ted Cribley who was credited with an own goal.

The Nailers should have capitalised on some of their promising positions as they troubled the hosts on either flank, however Sheffield always had the ability to break effectively and Regan Hutchinson went close with a shot on 22 minutes and Ashley Grayson missed a much better opportunity six minutes later.

Cribley’s 39th minute effort fizzed past the upright and as Sheffield realised that they were troubling the Belper defence more and more, the Nailers’ task became increasingly difficult.

Belper might have added to their lead just before half-time when Garnett’s well placed header from a Curtis cross was plucked out of the air by Jonathan Hedge to set up a tense second half battle. 

It wasn’t the best of starts for the Nailers who had to combat fierce pressure straight from the whistle. Sheffield’s confidence levels soared when Marc Newsham’s header cannoned of the crossbar in the 48th minute.

Garnett’s speculative effort from nearly 30 yards forced Hedge into a spectacular save, and the Nailers created many more promising moves that fizzled out to nothing.

The hosts, meanwhile, repeatedly forced Belper back into their own half and won a series of corner kicks that the Nailers defended well.  They were undone, however, by a shot from distance by Cribley on 72 minutes that went just inside the post and gave Ryan Musselwhite absolutely no chance of saving, and the teams were level.

Sheffield forced the Nailers to defend as they searched for a winner, but the last ten minutes belonged to Belper who suddenly stepped up their game, sparked by a missed penalty on 86 minutes. 

Riece Bertram was tripped as he ran into the box giving Garnett the opportunity to add to his goals tally from the penalty spot.  His shot was too near the ‘keeper who guessed the right way and he parried the ball away from danger.

Belper threw all they had at Sheffield and one particular goalmouth scramble lasted several seconds with the ball refusing to go over the line, and at some point the hosts were saved by the upright.

The Nailers had left their charge too late in the game and when the golden opportunity had arrived for another vital win, they couldn’t capitalise, and a share of the spoils was arguably a fair outcome.