Relieved Belper Town U18s are clinging on to top spot in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Youth Academy after squeezing past bottom-of-the-table Leek Town.
The Nailers triumphed 2-1 to stay ahead on goal-difference (plus-31 to plus-27) from Mickleover Sports Black. But only after a match that failed to follow the formbook as Leek, who have just four points from 14 games, gave the visitors a scare.
Whether it was because of the artificial pitch or the unseasonably warm weather, Belper never got out of first gear as passes went astray, ball control was mystifyingly absent and goalscoring attempts were woeful. They were not helped either when goalkeeper Morgan Mighty collapsed with a leg injury after a goalkick and central defender Kyle Higton had to take his place between the posts.
A speculative Leek cross dropped on to the Belper crossbar as the hosts sensed that an upset might be on the cards and the Nailers were happy to regroup at the interval. They duly stepped up the pace and broke the deadlock just after the hour when Ethan Camm found space on the edge of the area to drill home low.
Substitute Scott Taylor headed in the second after 82 minutes when Sam Weston’s cross found him unmarked inside the six-yard box. But just when it looked as if they would coast home, calamitous defending gifted Leek a consolation when Higton’s attempted clearance struck substitute Gavin Knight and rebounded into an empty net.
BELPER LINE-UP -- Mighty/ Rathband, Patrick, Craddock, Weston, Higton, Dronfield, Cain, Camm, Watson, Bullock. SUBS: Bradbury, Taylor, Hall, Rodgers