A controversial goal, deep into injury-time, salvaged a dramatic point for Belper Town on the last day of the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League, First Division South season.
Belper looked to be heading for defeat away to Staffordshire outfit Chasetown when they trailed 3-1 with only 18 minutes remaining.
But Jonathan Williams halved the deficit with a shot that crawled along the ground and crept through a sea of legs to beat onlooking home goalkeeper Curtis Pond. And then came a final twist in the tail that secured the Nailers a 3-3 draw.
With the game entering its sixth minute of stoppage time, Chasetown were furious that the referee had not blown the final whistle. And to rub salt into their wounds, up popped Ruben Wiggins-Thomas with a last-gasp goal that ensured Charlie Palmer‘s side a top-ten finish in the 22-team table.
They end up exactly tenth with 58 points and identical goals-for and goals-against tallies of 55. Of 42 league games played, they have won 15, drawn 13 and lost 14.
Chasetown began the day 11 points behind them, so Belper were confident of ending their campaign on a high, especially as the visitors had rung the changes ahead of an upcoming county cup final. They duly went in front after only nine minutes when Evan Garnett whipped the ball across to Wiggins-Thomas, who tapped home from close range.
The Scholars hit back well and levelled in the 34th minute when a cross was chipped up by Ryan Wynter for Matt Garbner, who headed home from six yards.
It was Gardner’s first goal for the club, and his afternoon got even better four minutes into the second half because he bagged another to give his side the lead. This time his looping header from Peter Till’s cross evaded Belper’s young goalkeeper Mark Rathbone.
The Nailers looked in big trouble when Chasetown netted their third goal on 66 minutes when a phenomenal long-range effort by Jack Langston left Rathbone clutching at thin air.
And even though Williams’s strike gave them hope, it could easily have been 4-2 as the long period of added time began because Michael Wright pounced for an effort that Rathbone did well to stop, stretching out a leg to kick the ball away at his near post. But full credit to Belper for the character they showed to rescue the game.