Belper Town fans were left scratching their heads after the Nailers let in five goals for the second consecutive game last Saturday.
The fact that they also managed to score four times in each of their last two outings and still ended up pointless strongly suggests that the Nailers have urgent defensive problems.
Spare a thought for Darryl Thomas whose first hat-trick for the club went almost unnoticed as the Nailers’ defensive frailties cancelled out the striker’s impressive trio of goals in a 5-4 defeat at Loughborough Dynamo.
When Russ Peel’s wind-assisted 56th minute corner curled in at the far post, Belper had taken the lead for the first time in the game and looked capable of getting more against one of the most porous defences in the division.
Unfortunately, Ali Barcherini was totally deceived by a long-range shot, or possibly a cross with 20 minutes to go and the initiative swung Dynamo’s way culminating in a winner.
The Nailers could have scored another three but Jon Froggatt, Ruben Wiggins-Thomas and Chris Wood missed close range opportunities that would have surely clinched three points, but it was not to be.
Manager Andy Carney put the blame on the whole team and not just the back four saying: “The defending was shambolic at times but I’m not naming names because it’s a team game and everyone is ultimately responsible.
“We can’t continue to defend like that. We saw it against Sheffield and Stamford, and if anything it was worse against Loughborough.”
Matt Plant’s continuing injury problems appear to be the common denominator surrounding Belper’s defensive worries, and while he and Richard Adams have had their moments as a defensive pairing, it would be reasonable to assume that with him in place, Belper would have shipped far less goals.
With Mark Barnard gamely turning out in last week’s fixture against Stamford despite being nowhere near fit, he was the first to admit that it wasn’t a success. However, manager Carney didn’t have anyone to turn to as Craig Laight had hobbled off during the previous game at Carlton.
Laight was restored for the visit to the Nanpantan Sports Ground, but both he and Adams struggled to keep things tight at the back under, difficult conditions, and it emerged after the game that although Laight had declared himself fully fit to start, he was still struggling with a knee injury.
Carney added: “To be honest we have missed Matt because until he injured his knee in a non-football related accident he was our best defender.
“He’s going to be out for at least another two weeks and I’m searching for another loan player to fill the gap.”
It wasn’t too long ago that Belper were struggling to find the back of the net but since the beginning of November, they have rattled in 36 goals in ten outings in all competitions, so the strikers have been doing their bit.
Matty Thorpe made his first start for the Nailers. He had a useful game in midfield and might have snatched his first goal with a couple of good first half efforts. The first one rebounded back off a post and the second forced a great save out of Dynamo custodian Laurie Pearson,
Thorpe’s inclusion was at the expense of Andy Rushbury who sat out the full 90 minutes on the bench.
Carney ended: “It was Matty’s first full game in seven weeks and I thought he did well for us so I’m happy all things considered. Rush was the one to make way because I thought he’d fallen short of his normal standard in the last couple of games although his work rate is unquestionable as far as I’m concerned.”
Carney has kept tight-lipped regarding Luke Fedorenko’s sudden departure from the club, and the fact that the wide man hasn’t moved to another club suggests behind the scenes issues were behind his exit, and Carney’s only comment was that the reasons were ‘of a non football nature’.
The Nailers are in action tonight (Wednesday) when they go to the Silverlands to face Buxton in the Derbyshire Senior Cup quarter final, then this Saturday they travel to Spalding United. Belper don’t have a fixture in midweek and their next game is at home to Kidsgrove Athletic on 29 January.
This Saturday’s Reserve team home match against Staveley MW Reserves in the CMFL Reserve Supreme Division will now kick off at 12.15pm at the request of the Staveley club, whose first team have an important match in the fourth round of the FA Vase. The earlier kick-off will allow the Staveley players to return to their home ground in time to watch the FA Vase tie.