Belper Town continued their excellent start to the season with a 2-1 win at Worksop Town - extending their unbeaten run to eight games in all competitions.
Grant Black made just one change from the team that made progress in the Emirates F A Cup last Saturday with Charlie Dawes starting in place of George Milner who dropped to the bench.
Spectators barely had time to take their seats or select their viewing positions before the Nailers scored their fastest goal since Mark Ward’s early strike against Chorley way back in 2003.
That goal was timed at 20 seconds and Derry Robson matched that feat with a superb strike from just outside the penalty area after Nathan Curtis had initially won the ball.
The effect of Robson’s strike undermined the goal net and a six minute delay ensued while attempts were made to secure the net support.
The hosts had recently lost their impressive record of 22 consecutive victories, although a 3-1 win at the then table toppers Carlton Athletic in their last outing suggested that their form hadn’t suffered as a result. They had also lost their manager Craig Denton who had suddenly resigned in midweek.
Once the game was back underway, the Nailers looked dangerous and pressured the Tigers’ defenders incessantly.
Charlie Dawes crossed for Derry Robson to head back to the unmarked Nathan Curtis on 11 minutes; however the Belper striker’s volley went too near the ‘keeper.
Dawes wasn’t too far away with a 20 yard drive just over the crossbar soon afterwards and after Curtis looked to have edged past last man defender Matthew Reay, the Tigers’ number five was fortunate not to receive a red card after bringing the Belper striker down.
Danny South headed just wide from Craig Nelthorpe cross on 25 minutes, and when Craig Mitchell headed past the near post for the hosts it was Worksop’s first attempt on goal.
Steven Woolley nearly equalised on 35 minutes after turning inside leaving defenders in his wake and unleashing an awkward shot that Ryan Musselwhite managed to push around the post.
The Nailers cut Worksop wide open on 44 minutes and doubled their lead after a Curtis cross was touched on by Alex Peterson and Charlie Dawes hit a measured and controlled shot into the net from 15 yards.
The Nailers had the Tigers on the back foot straight after the break and had enough attacking moments to have put the game well beyond Worksop.
Nathan Curtis hit a fine effort from the edge of the area that David Reay in the Tigers’ goal saved well, then Derry Robson had a great chance to get his second goal of the game on 51 minutes but nudged the ball wide of the target with only the ‘keeper to beat.
Riece Bertram found Phil Watt with a great cross on the hour mark however the ‘keeper was equal to the Belper defender’s effort, then Alex Peterson headed another cross from the opposite flank on to the cross bar.
Max Pemberton forced a good reaction save from Musselwhite on 66 minutes after finding space to run through the otherwise tight Belper defence, however two minutes later the Nailers went agonisingly close to putting the game to bed when Danny South met Danny Gordon’s 68th minute cross with a powerful downwards header that looked destined for the bottom corner,
David Reay had very little time to react but got down well to steer the ball around the post.
After this Belper’s attacking effort seemed to stall and the game became scrappy and as a result the hosts began to have more time on the ball.
There didn’t appear to be any serious challenge to Belper’s two goal lead but in the 85th minute a bold run from Niall Smith took the Nailers by surprise and after he had laid the ball into the path of Andrew Gascoigne, there was no denying the quality of the first time shot that fizzed under Musselwhite as he tried to keep it out.
The goal added a measure of anxiety to the last few minutes of a game in which Belper should have won with ease, however the hosts didn’t get close to an equaliser and the Nailers might have got a third goal in added on time when substitute Josh Waldron was denied by another smart save at the foot of the post by the Tigers’ keeper.
The records show that Belper have been unbeaten in 13 games in a period that straddles the end of last season and into this, which is an excellent achievement by Grant Black and his squad as they head towards Saturday’s F A Cup tie at home to Witton Albion.
Worksop Town: Reay D, Rhodes (Atherton 55), Smith, Woolley, Reay M, Wankiewicz, Patterson, Pemberton, Brunt, Mitchell (Gascoigne 65), Karkach (Templeton 73). Unused subs: Brownell, Jordan.
Belper Town: Musselwhite, Bryant, Clark, Bertram, South, Watt, Robson, Nelthorpe, Peterson, Curtis (Waldram 80), Dawes (Gordon 61). Unused sub: Milner, Wright, Ridley.
Referee: Scott Mason.