Frustrated manager Charlie Palmer has warned that his strikers must start delivering the goods for goal-shy Belper Town.
If they don’t, he says he is prepared to hunt down new signings to strengthen the Nailers’ firepower.
Palmer fired his missive after a goalless draw at home to old rivals, Stocksbridge Park Steels, on Saturday, which reinforced Belper’s record as one of the least productive sides in Division One South of the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League.
Before Tuesday night’s trip to Witton Albion, they had scored just 31 goals in 26 league games, which is the third lowest tally in the entire division, behind only bottom-three outfits, Rugby Town and Loughborough Dynamo.
“My hands are tied, but if things don’t change in the next two or three weeks, then I might have to try and bring in a new striker or two to create a bit of competition in the squad, which is always healthy,” said Palmer.
“Obviously, the game against Stocksbridge was one that we wanted to win, and we played some good football, creating plenty of chances. But my forwards were not able to take those chances.
“It was the same when we beat Stamford the previous week. We created numerous chances and although their ‘keeper was very good on the day, I expect the forwards to score and kill teams off.”
Belper’s frontline was weakened against Stocksbridge by the absence of Alex Steadman, who is sidelined with a hamstring injury. But Palmer refused to use that as an excuse.
“I could have played Alex, but I didn’t want to risk it and end up losing him for six weeks,” said the Nailers’ chief. “I felt we still had enough firepower up front to score goals.
“Goals win games, and our statistics speak volumes. We have the joint third best defensive record in the division (only 27 goals conceded), and we have good balance in midfield. The only dilemma is up front, where our forwards have got to start taking responsibility.
“I hold the likes of Ruben Wiggins-Thomas and Evan Garnett in high regard, and I praise them when they are doing well. But when things aren’t happening, I have to make it clear to them that they need to step up to the plate. If we weren’t creating chances, then I’d say: fair enough. But I am frustrated because we are.
“I will keep faith with the players we have, but they need to start realising that they are in the side for a specific reason, to do a specific job.”
On the plus side, Belper kept another clean sheet on Saturday, which was a further feather in the cap for new ‘keeper Scott Low, who has replaced Dan Haystead after he left the club for disciplinary reasons. The Nailers’ defensive record is now bettered only by promotion-chasing Witton and Spalding United.
“Things are looking good at the back,” said Palmer. “I accept Dan was a favourite with the fans, but I knew Scott from my time at Long Eaton United and he is a very good, reliable ‘keeper at this level.”
After Witton, Belper face another tough trip to high-flying AFC Rushden and Diamonds on Saturday. But Palmer is unfazed. “If we have the right mentality and belief in our ability, and everyone puts in a shift, we can get a result,” he insisted. “I still have ambitions to be in an around the play-off places.”