Belper Town secured their place in the Evo-Stik League Division One South play-offs in tremendous style at Christchurch Meadow on Tuesday night, writes Joe Malone.
A brilliant performance resulting in a comprehensive 3-0 victory gave the home fans much to cheer about, on a night of pure anticipation.
Once again, manager Peter Duffield fielded the same side to see his team win five straight games and pull away from close rivals Mickleover Sports.
The game began with a rather slower tempo then the Nailers’ recent performances, however Aaron Cole came close on five minutes with a free-kick from the left hand side, which hit the side netting.
Belper then had a goal disallowed on the 15th minute after a throw-in from right was launched in by Chris Jones, and several bodies went up to attack the ball which fell into the goal, only for the referee to award a foul on the goalkeeper.
The Nailers continued to press, with Marrison and Wells coming close from inside the box, and Loughborough earned a rare chance from a free-kick which was hit straight at keeper Scot Low by Dean Gent.
However, patience paid off for the home side as the Nailers took the lead on the 39th minute in fine style.
Phil Watt provided some neat defending at the back and carried the ball away from danger. Then, with pinpoint accuracy, Watt drilled the ball forward towards Kieran Wells, who had timed his run to perfection to stay onside.
Wells then closed in on the goalkeeper, and his initial effort was saved well at the near right post, only for Wells to get a second bite at the cherry and slot in from a tight angle, to breathe a huge sigh of relief.
A key feature in recent games has been the ‘London Buses’ effect for the Nailers, waiting patiently for a goal, to then score two in quick succession. And, on a night when luck was to go their way, Belper scored their second just six minutes later on the stroke of half-time to double their lead.
This time, rather than a silky footballing move, a slice of good fortune fell their way as Lee Attenborough’s attempted clearance was blocked by the back of Steve Warne to fall gracefully for Jon Froggatt who was standing in an offside position. Froggatt then unselfishly squared the pass to Kieran Wells inside the box, who smashed the ball into the back of the net and doubled his tally for the night.
The second half then saw the party pieces for a confident-looking Nailers side, who went on to win the game in fine style.
Kieran Wells should have had his hat-trick early on after a through-ball by Froggatt had seen him one-on-one with the goalkeeper, only to overplay his final touches and offer the goalkeeper a lifeline to smother the ball.
Moments later, on the 51st minute, Wells received the ball on the edge of the box and laid the ball off to Aaron Cole who fired the ball towards goal, only to see his effort crash against the crossbar with the keeper well beaten.
Substitute Simon Harrison then came on to make an immediate impact by winning his side a penalty.
His trickery inside the box teased full back Joe Pheasant who tripped the Nailers’ substitute as Harrison glided past him with consummate ease.
Jon Froggatt placed the ball in his usual confident manner, and smashed the ball into the far left corner to score his 32nd goal of the season and give his side a three-goal lead on the 57th minute.
With the game already wrapped up, there were further chances for Phil Watt, Aaron Cole and Jon Froggatt who all hit the target, and Scot Low was called to action to make three big saves late on to ensure his side kept another clean sheet.