Belper Town lost 3-1 at home to Carlton Town with a below par performance that was disappointing bearing in mind their recent improved form.
The Nailers were looking to extend their recent revival as they faced the Millers at the Marston’s Stadium last Saturday, and were boosted with the return of striker Rob Stevenson who was named as substitute after being out of action with injury for a number of weeks.
Central defender Phil Watt, who this week, confirmed that he would be staying with the club for another season was still absent through injury, while regular custodian Danny Haystead was serving a suspension.
Carlton arrived at the Marstons having experienced an indifferent season and currently occupied 18th place in the division.
The Nailers bucked the usual trend and began the game by kicking off towards the river end and found themselves under pressure during the first few minutes.
However Bradley Wells had Belper’s first shot on 7 minutes when he ran onto a through ball but put his effort wide and high.
Jon Williams ran with the ball unchallenged in the 15th minute but couldn’t find direction with his shot and after a period of play in which neither side could get the upper hand, Alex Steadman cut inside to despatch a shot from just inside the area that Jack Steggles reached at full stretch.
Carlton took the lead right out of the blue on 28 minutes when Daniel Gordon lashed a left foot shot into the corner of the net from the edge of the penalty area, with Charlie Mansfield beaten by pace and swerve.
Laurence Constable nearly replied instantly for the Nailers when he volleyed a 20 yard effort just wide of the far post.
The Nailers picked up the pace after the goal and began to show more urgency and the Millers were forced to defend more than they had at any part of the game so far.
The Nailers went close in the 44th minute when Eric Graves pulled a great cross over from the bye line and Gerome Palmer wasn’t able to keep his header down.
Belper started the second period well and caused Carlton problems with quick breaks and testing crosses, but it was Carlton who struck again 5 minutes into the half,
Josh Rae received a low cross into the penalty area and with his back to goal flicked it over his shoulder and beyond Mansfield who could do little about it as the ball looped over him.
The Nailers hit back from the penalty spot two minutes later after Bradley Wells had been bundled over by Jack Steggles, and Alex Steadman cooly converted from the spot.
A quickly taken free kick should have brought dividends in the 64th minute when Matt Richards set off towards goal but his attempt from 25 yards went well wide.
The Nailers had only themselves to blame for Carlton’s third goal on 67 minutes.
Kyle Bryant’s attempt at heading the ball to Charlie Mansfield was ill advised at best, and only presented Anthony Dwyer with tho opportunity to lob the ball over the advancing Belper ‘keeper.
Great work from Stevenson on the bye line resulted in a cross with the outside of his boot that Eric Graves was a whisker away from headed into the net but sadly moments like this had been very scarce in the game.
The Nailers tested the Millers defence in a spirited manner in the closing stages but they ended the game on a sour note when Gerome Palmer was shown a red card after tangling with Anthony Howell on the stroke of full-time.
Belper Town: Mansfield, Bryant, Keenan, Allen (Richards 45), Palmer, O’Brien, Constable (Stevenson 45, Graves, Wells Armstrong 90), Williams, Steadman. Unused subs: Leggit, Richards.
Carlton Town: Steggles, Campbell, Fletcher, Walker, Graham, McConway, Davie, Howell, Dwyer (Wedderburn 90), Rae, Gordon (Wholey 72). Unused subs: Sturgess, Keane, Newton,
Referee: Matt Foley