BELPER Town lost their Boxing Day clash with Sheffield FC 3-1 when, after having held the lead at half time, they let conceded three times in the second half.
The Nailers were without Aron Wint who had picked up an injury in training so in came Michael Blythen for his first start, but otherwise the starting line up was the same as the one that had beaten Shepshed in the last game.
Sheffield arrived at Christchurch Meadow looking to consolidate their position in the play off zone and were currently in fifth place in the league table
The Nailers had a bright start and Jon Froggatt came close to opening the scoring in the first minute with a shot on the turn following a corner kick.
Connor Higginson replied for Sheffield in the seventh minute with a sliced shot that flew over the cross bar and already the quality of football played by both sides suggested that supporters were in for an entertaining game.
Higginson took the ball 25 yards in the 13th minute before letting fly from 30 yards out – but Gavin Saxby reacted well to push his fiercely struck shot around the post for a corner kick.
Sheffield had settled into the game well and troubled the Nailers with some good approach play and looked odds-on to score first, but Belper had defended confidently and kept ’keeper Saxby well protected.
Jon Froggatt hit a speculative effort high and wide in the 21st minute as Belper tried to switch the emphasis away from their own half of the field.
Ashley Longstaff and Michael Blythen combined well in the 26th minute and Longstaff managed to get away from his marker and fire an angled shot into the side netting, but this was better from Belper.
The Nailers took the lead in the 28th minute with a superbly created and executed goal.
Jon Froggatt collected Deon Meikle’s long pass out of defence, and he laid it off to Ashley Longstaff who forged forward and scored with a low drive that Dan Whatsize could only help into the net.
The goal did wonders for Belper’s confidence and while they always had to be wary of Sheffield on the break they were now causing more problems up front for the visitors.
However, as the half approached it’s close Sheffield began to string passes together and focused Belper minds on preserving their hard won lead.
Richard Adams conceded a free kick in a dangerous area in the 55th minute but the defensive wall did its job and Steve Woolley’s shot bounced away to safety.
Deon Meikle caused problems for Dan Whatsize with a hanging cross that Jon Froggatt challenged for but he managed to claim the ball at the second attempt.
But Sheffield scored the equaliser in the 58th minute when Connor Higginson nipped in to head home from close range after Gavin Saxby had parried Andy Gascoigne’s blistering free kick.
Deon Meikle was close to restoring Belper’s lead on 62 minutes when his header looked to be eluding the Sheffield ’keeper, but Whatsize just managed to get his fingertips to the ball.
Whatsize denied a determined Belper side once more on 66 minutes when he blocked a strong Ashley Longstaff effort from 15 yards.
However, the Nailers conceded a second goal in the 73rd minute when Steve Woolley’s corner kick appeared to go straight into the net at the near post with Gavin Saxby and Deon Meikle left looking at each other.
Dan White had to be strong on 75 minutes as he wrestled to get the better of Nathan Modest, but it was all over for the Nailers in the 79th minute when Andy Gascoigne’s deflected shot from outside the area left Gavin Saxby helpless to intervene.
Jon Froggatt was unfortunate in the 85th minute when his free kick was cleared back to him and his second effort hit the upright and went to safety.
Aaron Pride received a straight red card for an incident in the final moments of the game and in a separate incident Belper assistant manager Mick Godber was sent to the stands after clashing verbally with the referee.
Belper Town: Saxby, Pride, Weir, Meikle, Adams, White, Blythen (Rushbury 52), Leonard, Froggatt, Longstaff, Adam (Wright 87). Unused subs: Ellis, Simpkins, Richmond.
Sheffield FC: Whatsize, Turner, Woolley, Harrison, Cardwell, Hadfield, Foster, Gascoigne, Modest (Roney 89), Higginson (Knowles 80), Burrell (Williams 65). Unused subs: Barnett, Graham,
Referee: Joe Simpson (Stockport)
Match sponsor: D & S Events.
Man of the match: Ben Leonard