Penalty save helps Holbrook Sports beat Belper United in local derby

IN THE THICK OF THE ACTION -- arms and legs are everywhere in a midfield tussle during the local derby between Holbrook Sports and Belper United.
IN THE THICK OF THE ACTION -- arms and legs are everywhere in a midfield tussle during the local derby between Holbrook Sports and Belper United.

A dramatic penalty-save helped happy Holbrook Sports bag the bragging rights after a tight and tense local derby with fellow strugglers Belper United.

Both sides began the game locked in the nether regions of the East Midlands Counties League, Premier Division table after slow starts to the campaign.

But the spot-kick stop from Chris Whiteley, in between goals from Kristian Gilbert in the 52nd minute and substitute Labrada Domini in the 75th minute, gave the Brookies a 2-0 cushion. And although a late goal from United forced a frantic six minutes of injury-time, the hosts held on for a 2-1 success.

Relieved Holbrook manager Paul Romney said: “I was very pleased to get the three points after what was a typical local derby. We deserved the win with our second-half performance, and we scored two excellent goals. United never gave in and another defensive slip-up made the final moments uneasy, depriving our goalkeeper of a deserved clean sheet. But we are starting to turn the corner now and feeling confident.”

United’s confidence will be more fragile after the defeat left them perilously close to the relegation zone in their debut season in the league.

The signs early on, though, were encouraging because they started the brighter of the two sides, playing at a fast tempo, pressing high and putting one gilt-edged chance wide of the target.

Belper also opened the second half with another good opportunity that was headed over. But four minutes later came the breakthrough at the other end as Fisher slipped a perfect through-ball into the path of Gilbert, who ran on and smashed home.

The turning point of the game came midway through the half when the penalty miss had a profound effect on the visitors, whose heads dropped. Minutes later, they fell further behind after an inspired substitution by Romney, who sent on Domini for Fisher. Within ten seconds, a driving run and cross by Isaac Minott found the supersub free in the six-yard box and although his initial effort was well saved, his second found the top of the net.

From then on, Holbrook looked comfortable until the dying seconds when a blunder gave Belper a last-gasp lifeline. A diagonal ball was misjudged by skipper Kyle Hazeldine and a right-wing cross was swept home by Ben Stockley at the near post.