Belper Town and Sheffield fought out a competitive 1-1 draw in front of an enthusiastic Boxing Day crowd, and in many respects this was a good result for both teams as they emerged with their unbeaten records intact.
Sheffield arrived at the Marston’s Stadium with an impressive 13 game unbeaten run and the Nailers were not far behind having gone 10 games without defeat in the League.
Sheffield, managed by former Nailers favourite James Colliver and skippered by another former Belper player Lee Cooksey, found themselves a goal down after only two minutes when Phil Watt bundled the ball over the line to put the Nailers in front.
It was the start of an eventful 15 minutes for Watt who proceeded to be cautioned 4 minutes later and then had to be substituted on 15 minutes to be replaced by loan signing Dean Freeman, who was signed from Coalville only a few days ago.
Sheffield began to show what a good attacking side they are as they set about recovering from the effects of conceding an early goal.
Matt Roney brought re-signed ’keeper Scott Low into action with a shot that bounced just in front of the former Long Eaton stopper, but Low comfortably passed his first test of the afternoon.
The Nailers had to defend stoically in the 23rd minute when the visitors peppered the Belper goal with four or five shots that were blocked before they could reach Low in the Nailers’ goal.
Club were trying to unsettle the Nailers with the long ball approach, and Belper to their credit, attempted to play a shorter passing game which almost paid off on 30 minutes. Alex Steadman’s penetrating run and pass into the penalty area should have reaped rewards but Matt Richards scooped his shot over the bar.
The pair linked up again in the 36th minute when this time Richards was the provider and Steadman cut inside to hit a low shot that was stopped by Chris Butt’s legs.
Sam Finlaw had to be stretchered off just before half time and it transpired that he had suffered a broken ankle, then James Gregory wasted a great opportunity to level the scores with a shot wide of the target on the half-time whistle.
The Nailers found themselves on the back foot in the early stages of the second period, before they forced their way back into it on 55 minutes when Haydn Goddard registered a shot on target.
But the emphasis of the second half was of Sheffield slowly but surely pushing the Nailers further back and in the 75th minute Adam Johnson forced a finger tip save from Low.
Matt Roney cut inside and struck a curling shot goal bound that Low parried well, and Club were sensing that they could get something from the game as fulltime approached. The final minutes were frantic for the Nailers who were forced to defend heroically, but deep into added on time, Ross Goodwin bundled the ball over the line to give the visitors, what few would argue, a deserved equaliser for their efforts over the 90+ minutes.
Belper Town: Low, Allen, Guy, Graves, Palmer, Watt (Freeman 14), Richards (Garnett 60), Armstrong (Goddard 52), Wiggins-Thomas, Williams, Steadman. Unused subs: Dennis, Palmer J.
Sheffield FC: Butt, Foster, Rose, Lindley, Cooksey, South, Roney, Finlaw, Johnson, Watson, Gregory. Subs not used: Magee, Cusworth.
Referee: Martyn Gospel
Pic cap: Phil Watt makes it 1-0 to Belper. Pic by Tim Harrison.