Belper Town relinquished a two goal half-time lead and exited the Integro League Cup 6-5 on penalties after an exciting 2-2 draw against neighbours Matlock Town last night.
That this first round game went ahead at all is testament to all the directors, committee members and supporters who assisted over the last two weeks to recover from the effects of the high water levels experienced after recent rainfall.
The pitch looked immaculate and the stage was set for the Nailers to continue their good form that had seen them beat three teams from a similar level during their F A Cup run.
Grant Black fielded a strong side with only Sam Wright missing from the team that won at Loughborough.
The Gladiators included former Nailers’ favourite Piteu Crouz in their line up and he was to play an influential part in the tie.
Nathan Curtis nearly opened the scoring in the sixth minute with a pacey run into the box before scuffing his shot straight at the Gladiators keeper.
The visitors played some neat football in the early stages and Alex Peterson had Belper’s second attempt of the evening with a shot that went just wide.
Matlock’s Luke Dean hit a 19th minute shot over the top, but as they continued to press, a mistake let in Piteu Crouz who fired a low shot past a defender and Ryan Musselwhite, but Danny South was on hand to kick the ball off the line.
Dwayne Wiley nearly squeezed the ball in at the far post with a shot from 15 yards but Musselwhite managed to get a toe to the ball and see it out for a corner kick.
Belper were always looking dangerous on the break and in the 30th minute they took the lead after George Milner’s pass over the Matlock defence fell for Danny Gordon, who slotted the ball inside the near post beyond the advancing keeper.
The Nailers made in 2-0 on 40 minutes with Alex Peterson feeding the ball to George Milner, who remained composed as he stroked the ball home beyond Daniel Wallis.
The Nailers made a good start to the second half and created many promising situations that they failed to capitalise on.
Then in the 60th minute former Nailer Piteu Crouz produced some trickery and finished with an excellent curling shot that beat Musselwhite just inside the post.
Matlock were energised by this goal and four minutes later were on level terms with Crouz’s driven cross from the by-line turned in by substitute Chib Chilaka.
The game ebbed and flowed as both teams sensed that they could win the tie.
However, Belper continued to lack the finishing touch despite having the Gladiators on the rack at times.
Matlock, too, had their moment and spectators were treated to an entertaining final 15 minutes.
But when Layton Swain sent his added time shot narrowly wide, the referee blew for full time and the game went to penalties.
With both teams having missed once in the first five sets of penalties, Nathan Curtis had his saved to send Matlock into the next round.
Belper Town: Musselwhite, Wardle, Nelthorpe, Ridley (McCaffrey 80), South, Bertram, Robson (Swaine 64), Gordon, Peterson, Milner, Curtis. Unused sub: Dawes, Bryant, Kozluk.
Matlock Town: Wallis, Yates, Gordon B, Dean, Gooda, Wiley, Poole (Bramall 78), Harris, Hinsley (Chilaka 62), Sinnott (Marshall 45), Crouz. Tague, Morris.
Referee: Chris Hunter.