Shellshocked Belper United were left hanging on to top spot by a thread after suffering only their second defeat of the season in the Central Midlands League’s (CML) South Division.
United, beaten once in 16 starts, went down 1-0 at home to Blidworth Welfare in their first match of 2016, and now head the table by just one point from Selston, who also have two games in hand.
After a three-week break for the Christmas and New Year holiday, Paul Postlethwaite’s side looked distinctly rusty against their mid-table visitors, who played far better than their league position suggests. The home team fell to the only goal of the game, scored by Keenan Leeds from a well-worked corner routine in the opening half-hour.
Meanwhile Selston were pulling off an impressive 2-1 win away to Hucknall Town, who are the other outfit in the three-team race for the title. In an exciting encounter, which was a credit to the CML, Carl Moore put the visitors in front in the 19th minute and although Leon Aikman slotted home an equaliser two minutes before the interval, Selston grabbed a 75th minute winner when Moore condemned Hucknall to their second successive home defeat.
United, who travel to Hucknall at the end of the month, now bid to repair the damage this Saturday when they take on Mickleover Royal British Legion away. Selston are at Keyworth United, while Hucknall go to Sherwood Colliery.
Elsewhere in the South Division, Holbrook St Michael’s were without a game. But in the Reserves Division, their reserve side slid to their 11th straight defeat, leaving them still searching for their first point of the season.
This time, the Saints went down 4-1 at home to tabletopping Hucknall Town Reserves, despite a goal for Aaron Pegg. On target for The Yellows, who now head the table by 11 points, were Kieran Beales, Nathan Francis, Toby Birch and Mark Poyser.
There were mixed fortunes for CML clubs in the county cup competitions, but Sherwood Colliery secured a place in the quarter-finals of the Notts FA Senior Cup against Rainworth Miners Welfare with a fine 3-1 victory over Ruddington Village. Julian Topliss, Dale Gilliatt and Liam Black netted the goals, although the tie was marred by a serious injury to Ruddington’s Ben Johnson.
In the Notts FA Intermediate Cup, Ryan Rushen’s double was not enough to prevent Collingham going down 3-2 to Strelley Rose.