Belper Town nearly pulled off a huge shock at league leaders Cleethorpes Town but couldn’t hang on to a fully deserved 3-0 interval lead.
Nevertheless a point against previously unbeaten Cleethorpes was sufficient reward in itself as the Nailers put on a superb show on a rain sodden night at the Bradley Development Centre on Wednesday evening.
A strong opening from the Owls was expected but what came as a surprise was Belper’s fearless approach, and they soon had the hosts on the rack.
Three good opportunities came Belper’s way inside the first 6 minutes with Kieran O’Connell escaping his marker before rolling the ball across the six yard area without a Belper player getting on the end of it. Then Alex Steadman, who was the pick of the Belper players sped away on the left before setting up Sam Birks with a great chance, but he could only put his shot wide.
Birks spurned another, more difficult shooting opportunity after good play from O’Connell and there was already a sense of unease developing in the tightly pack stand holding the majority of the 256 crowd. Then Alex Steadman scored a stunning goal in the 8th minute after streaking away from his marker and shooting across goal inside the far post.
The Owls tried to step up the pace but found Belper’s defence steadfast and after the Nailers broke again on 23 minutes it was Steadman again who punished a static defence with a near post header from Haydn Goddard’s corner kick.
Up to this point, Cleethorpes had mustered only a couple of direct shots and when Steadman finished from close range after another Goddard corner on 31 minutes, the home supporters were in deep shock.
The second half was always going to be more difficult but the Nailers once again cut through a frail looking Owls defence almost immediately when Steadman looked odds on to get his fourth of the night, but this time Miles Fenty blocked his shot. In quick succession a shot from Dexter Atkinson was blocked close to the goal line and Max Hunt header came back off the post.
But things can change very quickly and with seconds of Hunt’s header Danny North had reduced the arears with a chip shot over Daniel Roberts in the Belper goal on 48 minutes. The Nailers let in a poor goal on 68 minutes when Mark Cooper had plenty of time to glance a header into the corner, and the Owls come back was well and truly on.
However the Nailers continued to take the game to the hosts and managed to restore a two goal margin when Dexter Atkinson hit a sweet volley into the net from 15 yards on within a minute. A cheap free kick given away by Will Dennis just outside the area proved to be very costly as Alex Flett’s shot took a slight deflection that deceived Roberts as it squeezed under the cross bar.
With seven minutes of normal time left the Nailers still looked good for a shock win but deep into added on time, Jack Richardson scored the latest of equalisers to save the hosts blushes. It was a great effort by Anthony Danylyk’s men that can only boost confidence for the future.
Cleethorpes Town: Fenty, Lowe, Winn (McKay 46), Dickens, Donald, Coleman (Bloomer 57), Davis (Richardson 80), Flett, Cooper, North, Mascall Unused sub: Taylor.
Belper Town: Roberts, Thornberry, Allen (Dennis 69), Graves, Hunt, Guy, Birks (Garnett 88), Goddard, Atkinson, O’Connell (Barr-Rostron 90), Steadman. Unused subs: Hunt, Rathbone.
Referee: Martin Chester