Belper Town made to pay for failure to close games out

Nabil Shariff opens the scoring for Belper. Pic by Tim Harrison
Nabil Shariff opens the scoring for Belper. Pic by Tim Harrison

Belper Town recorded their fourth successive draw following a 1-1 scoreline against high-flyers Skelmersdale United at the Marston’s Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Nabil Shariff scored his fourth goal in as many games to give Belper Town the lead in the first minute.

But Belper’s failure to close out games once again cost them dear as Skelmersdale equalised with eight minutes of normal time remaining.

Jimmy Albans was able to bring in new signing Laurie Wilson to the centre of midfield along-side Michael Towey and Jonathan Williams after making the switch to the Nailers.

It was perhaps the best start made by the home side this season after taking the lead after just 50 seconds.

Williams picked up possession to the left of centre just outside the box and whipped in a cross which Froggatt latched on to, producing a glancing header, which was tipped wide by ‘keeper James.

Direct from the resulting corner, Wilson drilled in a low cross from the right, and Nabil Shariff got in front of his marker to steer the ball home first time, from six yards out.

It was then Belper’s game for the next 20 minutes as they piled the pressure on the promotion-chasing side, but were unable to carve out any decent opportunities.

United then worked their way back into the game and began forcing the issue themselves creating three half-decent chances.

Alan Burton blazed a shot wide of the left hand post from distance, before Danny Mitchley and Dale Wright both saw efforts rise over the bar from close range moments before the half hour mark.

Belper had a big chance to double their lead six minutes from the half time whistle as Towey played a neat ball through to Shariff inside the left channel of the box.

Shariff then opened his body up and went for the near corner, but James got down low to tip the ball away to safety.

Froggatt soon came close in the final stages, after out-muscling Holden on the right hand side, before working his way towards the penalty box and curling a delicious effort which had James beaten, but the ball could only spin two inches wide of the far left post.

The second half proved even-stevens once more as both sides created good opportunities to add to the score-line.

Mitchley twice came close in the early stages after producing two half-volleys from close range, only for his finishing to be below par.

Towey then saw his strike from the edge of the box tipped wide by James after 50 minutes.

Lister and Grimes later came close for the home side, as Lister’s close range header was saved well on the line by James, and Grimes’ fierce drive from right to left flashed across the face of the goal without producing the all-important finish.

Then, the seemingly inevitable goal came late for the visitors as Belper proved guilty of conceding yet another late goal to give away the chance of a victory as Skelmersdale struck back.

Alan Burton produced a skilful back-heel to out-smart the Nailers defenders, which saw left-back Shaun Holden find a way in to the penalty box unmarked to the left hand side.

Holden then powered his low strike into the far corner, giving Haystead no chance, and producing the killer-finish with eight minutes remaining.

One minute later, the referee was under the spotlight.

A long ball up was chased by substitute Stevenson who beat the goalkeeper to the ball on the right-hand by-line and began working his way towards goal.

James then produced a rugby tackle style foul on Stevenson which saw the referee point to the penalty spot, only for the linesman to overrule his decision and insist the contact was outside the box.

James got off lightly with only a yellow card, and Belper were unable to make anything of the free kick, as the game saw out its final minutes with a sniff of injustice.

Belper Town: Haystead, Turner, Matthews, Lister, Miller, Watt, Wilson, Williams, Froggatt (Stevenson 77), Shariff (Grimes 77), Towey. Subs: Ross, Varley, Warne.

Skelmersdale United: James, Fernandes, Holden, Mooney (Bellow 45), Wylie, Kirkbride (Jackson 45), Donaldson (Whittington 45), Burton, Mitchley, Wright, Strickland. Subs: Rendell, Meaney.

Referee: Robert Atkin (Scunthorpe)

Attendance: 214