Brilliant Belper Town thrilled their fans with an excellent display to stun top-of-the-table title favourites Shaw Lane at the Marston’s Stadium on Saturday.
Belper inflicted only the fourth defeat on the Barnsley outfit in 35 games all season in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League, First Division South.
And their performance in sinking the Ducks, in front of a crowd of 312, proved what Charlie Palmer’s Nailers are capable of, making a mockery of their own comparatively modest position of 12th in the table.
Shaw Lane arrived in town with a healthy nine-point lead and almost guaranteed promotion to the league’s top flight. But Belper had them on the back foot from the off, even though visiting striker Spencer Harris flashed a first-minute shot just wide and then headed over from the game’s opening corner.
Phil Watt headed wide from a flagkick by Ruben Wiggins-Thomas, who was leading the Nailers line, alongside Alex Steadman in the absence of the injured Evan Garnett. And it wasn’t long before Jonathan Williams drove a 40-yard pass into the path of Wiggins-Thomas, whose under-hit shot allowed Shaw Lane ‘keeper Mateusz Zaniewski to save at the second attempt.
The pressure was beginning to tell, and Belper took the lead two minutes from the interval from a Williams free-kick. Skipper Eric Graves headed the ball goalwards, and as it looped under the crossbar, there was Watt to head over the line.
Shaw Lane roared back, going close to an equaliser in the dying moments of the half when Kelvin Lusden headed just wide from a corner. And after a half-time roasting from their manager, Craig Elliot, the visitors came out with renewed purpose in the second period.
The Nailers stood resolute, though, and Watt missed a golden chance to extend their lead in the 55th minute when he headed over from an unmarked position after a Williams corner. That second goal wasn’t long in coming, however, because a minute later, when a misplaced backpass by Neil Austin put Steadman through on goal, he rounded the ‘keeper and slotted home with precision and skill.
Shaw Lane responded with a scrappy goal five minutes later when the ball bounced around the Belper six-yard box, and Gavin Allott bundled it over the line.
But Belper re-established their two-goal cushion on 70 when the Ducks failed to clear a Williams corner and the ball fell to Wiggins-Thomas, who drilled home from the edge of the six-yard area.
They almost added a fourth when Steadman pulled the ball back for Wiggins-Thomas, who fired over. But as they controlled all areas of the pitch, frustrating all of the visitors’ attacking movements, the determined Nailers remained on top and no-one could deny their right to a superb victory.