Nailers earn a replay with a spirited display

Belper Town had to dig deep at the New Manor Ground but a gritty performance earned them a second FA Cup chance against Ilkeston.

Manager Peter Duffield made one change from the side that has been performing so well in recent weeks with Richard Stirrup’s absence giving Ben Leonard a rare opportunity to start.

It was pleasing to see Jon Froggatt named amongst the seven substitutes allowed for FA Cup games.

The Robins had former Belper player Daryll Thomas in their forward line and he was to play a significant role.

The Nailers made a positive start and a dangerous cross from Aaron Pride was cleared by Ilkeston. From the corner, Jordan Ball headed over.

Both teams moved the ball quickly on the excellent playing surface but neither goalkeeper was troubled as play was concentrated between the two penalty areas.

The Nailers surprised the Robins with a goal in the 16th minute. Ryan Mallon’s curling cross was nodded on by Jordan Ball and Ben Leonard headed home.

Ilkeston had appeared to lack attacking ideas but James Reid’s wayward effort in the 19th minute suggested that eventually, something much better would come.

Robins’ skipper Matt Richards stirred the Ilkeston supporters with a deflected header on 28 minutes that went for a corner, and suddenly it was noticeable the home side was slowly clicking into gear.

Jordan Ball could have stunned the home support in the 38th minute when he sneaked between two central defenders and for a split second had a clear shot on goal. But Ilkeston centre back Joe Maguire took the ball off his toe.

Then, right back Joe Wilcox went on a tremendous run in the 39th minute, beating at least three Belper players before releasing the ball to Thomas who swept the ball in to level.

The goal spurred Ilkeston on as the Nailers found themselves on the back foot. They fell into the trap of getting caught in possession and the Robins began to look like a team from a higher division.

The second period also saw them struggle to contain a more confident Ilkeston. Aaron Hooton ran through and fired over the top and Jack Watts’s 55th minute effort hit the post.

The Robins were looking dangerous with each attack and Thomas looked to have severely dented Belper hopes when he fired past Aaron Chapman.

But the game swung back in their favour when Ashley Longstaff powered a 70th minute far post header in off the underside of the bar from a perfect Simon Harrison corner kick.

The Nailers still had time to slice open the Robins’ defence on 85 minutes with Andy Rushbury going very close.

Then Ashley Longstaff stormed his way between two defenders in the final minute of normal time and only the slightest deflection prevented the Nailers getting a dramatic winner.