Manager Peter Duffield will no doubt have learned more about his selection strategy for Saturday’s league opener against Ashton United following a tough workout against Sutton Coldfield in last weekend’s final pre-season fixture.
The visitors made a lively start to the game and tested the Nailers’ back line with a couple of probing crosses that needed to be cut out at the first time of asking.
However, Aaron Cole nearly caught Sutton Coldfield on their heels with a superb first time cross in the third minute that Mark Ward headed over the cross bar.
Rob Stevenson had an opportunity to mark his manager’s card on 12 minutes when another slick Belper attack left him with a relatively easy shooting opportunity from eight yards, but he could only mis-hit his effort to give Lee Evans an easy save.
Aaron Cole demonstrated his ability to cross a ball again on 15 minutes and once more it was Stevenson who was the recipient. However, as he leaned in to get his head to the ball, he could only glance it wide of the post.
Cole had a great chance to put the Nailers ahead two minutes later when the referee had allowed play to continue after Stevenson had been felled on the edge of the area, and, as the ball ran to him, he sliced it well wide of the gaping target.
Cole should have controlled his shot better when he had an opening in the 20th minute, but fired high over the bar, and soon afterwards, Evan Garnett’s undoubted pace saw him get to a backpass ahead of the ‘keeper but he could only put the ball wide.
Cole was involved again on the half-hour mark with a fiercely struck effort that Evans managed to parry. However, despite the visitors having had a reasonable share of possession, their best effort of the half came from Tom Turton whose volley on the turn went straight to James Martin.
It was a more even affair after the break with Sutton Coldfield having some dangerous moments early on.
Stuart McNaught hit a fine effort from the edge of the area on 55 minutes that struck the bar, and moments later Tom Turton fired a low shot narrowly wide.
The Nailers slowly began to claw back possession and Garnett made the most of Aaron Cole’s thoughtful pass on 66 minutes to deliver a dangerous cross into the box that the visitors were fortunate to clear.
The only goal of the game came in the 68th minute when Evan Garnett nodded the ball in from close range after an Aaron Cole corner came eventually came to him, and Belper’s lead was justified, based more on their first half opportunities rather than their creativity after the break.
The remainder of the game was disrupted to a degree by the inevitable substitutions and although Sutton Coldfield remained a threat, there was little likelihood of Belper conceding a goal.