'If we stick together, we'll go far,' says Belper Town's Phil Watt after reaching appearance milestone

Phil Watt making his 150th appearance for Belper Town in the defeat of Sutton Coldfield. Pic by Tim Harrison.
Phil Watt making his 150th appearance for Belper Town in the defeat of Sutton Coldfield. Pic by Tim Harrison.

Phill Watt says this season's Belper Town squad has similar characteristics to the one which last achieved promotion to the Northern Premier League.

The Nailers defender scored the winning goal at Mickleover Sports in the play-offs in 2013/14 to secure their place at Step 3 of the non-League pyramid.

A similar ending this time around would be a fitting way to finish a season which has seen Belper already take on higher-league opposition in the FA Cup.

Watt, who clocked up his 150th appearance for the Nailers against Sutton Coldfield Town, says this season's squad has all the attributes to make the step up.

"It'd be nice to play a part again like that," he said, reflecting on that game against Mickleover in 2014.

"But as long as we get out of the league then I don't mind how it comes and that's the aim for everyone at the club.

Phil Watt scores for Belper Town against Mickleover Sports to take the Nailers to the Northern Premier League. Pic by Tim Harrison.

Phil Watt scores for Belper Town against Mickleover Sports to take the Nailers to the Northern Premier League. Pic by Tim Harrison.

"A lot of staff, players and people behind the scenes have changed over the years but there are still some people here from my previous spells.

"Everyone's really friendly and would do anything for each other.

"And from a playing side, it's got a similar feel about it to when we were promoted last time. We had a close bunch then and we're close now, with better players.

"A togetherness is what it's going to take.

Phil Watt celebrates his winning goal for Belper Town against Mickleover Sports. Pic by Tim Harrison.

Phil Watt celebrates his winning goal for Belper Town against Mickleover Sports. Pic by Tim Harrison.

"At our level, we don't have the biggest squads so you've got to take your chances when they come.

"I've had to wait my time, as you do in football, but if we're all in it together and working hard then that sets us up well.

"We've got a lot of talented lads and eager lads who want to play every week but sometimes it can't happen with the number of games we've got coming up.

"But if we stick together, we'll go far."

Scorer of Belper Town's all-important goal Phil Watt. Photo by Tim Harrison

Scorer of Belper Town's all-important goal Phil Watt. Photo by Tim Harrison

Watt is enjoying his football again having returned for a third spell at the club in the summer after meeting manager Grant Black and assistant Mick Norbury.

He rejoined from Frickley Athletic and lists Corby Town, Grantham Town, Boston United, Coalville Town and Lincoln United as former clubs, having started out at Lincoln City.

The experienced campaigner said: "I'm really enjoying my time at Belper.

"I must admit that over the years there have been quite a few ups and downs but the club's being run really well.

"I just wanted to get back enjoying my football and that's what's happened, since meeting Grant and Norbs in the summer.

"Things have changed at Belper over time but there are some great lads and the management team are brilliant.

"I'm really enjoying it, as are the other lads, and you can see that reflected in the results we've had so far.

"Hopefully we can keep doing what we're doing, taking it one game at a time and move up that league table.

"I knew they were going to be up there this year and wanted to be a part of it. Hopefully, I can help out as much as I can."

Watt's 150th game came in a 1-0 win over Sutton Coldfield which sees the Nailers fourth in the BetVictor NPL South East Division and keeping pace with their rivals.

"To make that number of appearances for the club is a great achievement for me but to win and keep a clean sheet is exactly how I like to win," said Watt.

"As a centre-half I prefer a 1-0 victory like that than a four or five-nil, though I don't like that every week, just as long as we keep the wins coming.”

Belper's defensive record is second only to table-toppers Leek Town.

"We all work hard as a team and defend from the front.

"The gaffer's got us all working hard and working for each other and it's paying off at the minute, long may that continue," he said.

The team's work ethic and 'never-say-die' attitude have been evident this season, none more so than in the FA Cup.

It was a campaign which started with an extra-time replay win over Sporting Khalsa and defeats of higher-league opponents Alvechurch, Witton Albion and Rushall Olympic.

The tie against Witton remains fresh in Watt's memory with Belper going through after scoring in extra-time of the replay away, three days after a goalless draw at home.

"It was such a tight game and all I remember is the gaffer saying 'we can win this off a set-piece' - and that's how it panned out," said Watt.

"I had a shot which took a deflection on its way in and we saw the game out, which made the journey home very sweet.

"It was a tense game and nice to beat someone in the league above who at the time were going well.

"Beating teams like that gives us confidence going forward, knowing what we've achieved so far.

"We've got to keep our focus, keep working hard, keep our feet on the ground and keep doing the basics well.

"If we do that then we can go a long way.

"We've got some great players at Belper and if they keep doing what they're doing then they'll play much higher, I'm sure."

That memorable run to the fourth qualifying round saw the Nailers eventually bow out of the competition to Notts County at an atmospheric Meadow Lane.

Hopes were raised among the 1,700 Belper following when Danny Gordon's thunderbolt put the away side into an 11th-minute lead before the Magpies struck back to win 2-1.

Watt said: "We couldn't quite believe what was happening when that goal went in.

"We'd played some tough games leading up to that but I'll always remember that day.

"My little girl was the mascot on the day and to be supported by 1,700 fans was incredible.

"When Danny Gordon hit that goal it was a feeling we'll never forget.

"It was so nice to be a part of and it's hard to put all that emotion into words.

"We played at an amazing ground, in front of amazing fans and was the best day of my career."

Their efforts were recognised by the full 5,729 inside Meadow Lane that day who applauded the Derbyshire side off the pitch after a classic cup tie.

"We never get applauded by away fans," joked Watt.

"So to have the Notts fans applaud us off the pitch was very touching. It was an emotional day.

"We didn't know what to expect because we'd not played in front of an atmosphere like that before.

"It was an amazing touch from them to applaud our efforts and the Belper Town fans were fantastic - they didn't stop all game.

"They made their presence known, filling the majority of that stand and singing all day.

"We were grateful for everyone who turned up."

The cup run and league form - the Nailers are seven unbeaten in all competitions - has seen attendances steadily rise at the Raygar Stadium.

"We're playing good stuff and you can see the effort week-in, week-out from the lads is there.

"As a fan that's what you want from your team - you want the effort there.

"You can go and watch some big games and not get the emotional side of it that you do at non-League.

"Everything's going well at the moment and long may it continue."

Watt, a self-employed personal trainer away from football, is well-positioned to maintain his fitness and hopes to play another 150 games for the club.

Preferably in a higher league.

"It'd be nice to top off the season with promotion after what we'd done in the cup," said Watt.

"The gaffer and Norbs are working hard every day so it would be nice to reward them for what they do for us.

"If we do it then we'll go down in the club's history again."