Belper Town recorded an excellent victory over a Derby County side on Tuesday, containing at least six players with first team experience, and with manager Nigel Clough naming himself as a substitute, writes Nigel Oldrini.
Belper won this game without five of their leading players missing and left supporters of both teams with nothing but admiration for the way that Peter Duffield’s men approached this prestige friendly fixture.
Steve Warne, Dan White, Michael Simpkins, Ashley Longstaff and Jon Froggatt were not involved and the pleasant, albeit taxing problem for the management is how can all these talented players be accommodated in a 16-man squad.
Nailers supporters welcomed back former Belper favourite Tom Naylor, who started for the Rams in the right back berth.
Karl Colley caused problems in the first minute for the Rams when he nodded an Andy Rushbury free kick against the inside of the far post, and Belper looked strong in the first five minutes or so, but soon the Rams opened up and began to spray the ball around.
Jordan Turner caught the Rams on the break in the tenth minute and did very well to find Ben Leonard with his cross, but the resulting header went wide of the target.
Colin Marrison sent Saul Deeney sprawling with a fine effort two minutes later and although Derby had registered more shots on goal in the first 15 minutes, the Nailers had generally looked more menacing.
This was emphasised on 17 minutes when Colin Marrison just failed to turn in a Mark Ward cross from close in. However in the 24th minute, Mason Bennett almost outpaced the Belper defence with powerful run and his shot bounced off Aaron Chapman for a corner kick.
The Nailers broke quickly three minutes later with some impressive interchange play between Aaron Pride and Mark Ward culminating in a cross just over the bar from Jordan Turner.
In between times, the Rams played some slick one-touch football and the Nailers’ defence had to be very alert to the obvious dangers.
In fact, they went perilously close to opening the scoring on 32 minutes when Mason Bennett flashed a good header just wide from a Ben Davies cross.
Conor Doyle’s rather aimless shot on 37 minutes expressed an element of frustration from the Rams after they had, thus far, failed to break down Belper’s organised rearguard.
Valentin Gjokaj squandered the best chance of the half in the 40th minute when he put a free header wide of the target from a corner kick, then moments later Tom Naylor sliced a reasonable chance wide from the corner of the 18-yard box.
Saul Deeney was fortunate to reclaim the ball after a poor punch gave Mark Ward the opportunity to head the ball back across goal, then moments later Aron Chapman blocked Mason Bennett shot after he had wriggled past Karl Colley.
Conor Doyle brought the best out of Chapman on 51 minutes with a stinging shot that the Belper keeper fisted over, and almost immediately Doyle crashed the cross bar with a volley from 15 yards.
The Nailers went close themselves when Jordan Turner header over after Ben Leonard nodded an Andy Rushbury free kick back into the six yard area, however the Nailers hit the first goal of the evening when Turner beat Stefan Galinski for pace and hit a stunning volley inside the far post.
Mason Bennett made his chance well on 65 minutes but his shot lacked accuracy as it sped past the far post, then as the Nailers counterattacked, Simon Harrison hit an overhead kick just over the cross bar.
The Nailers made a number of substitutions as expected and still looked strong in all departments, and their physical presence certainly unnerved the young Rams players who found that they were allowed very little time on the ball.
Carlos Forbes almost extended Belper’s lead in the 81st minute with a hook shot that was headed off the line by Michael Hoganson , then the Rams were presented with a golden opportunity to level the scores when Mason Bennett fell under a challenge from Greg Wright in the 86th minute.
Ben Davies spurned the goal scoring opportunity by blasting the ball high and wide
Belper saw out the rest of the game quite comfortably and left many Belper supporters pleasantly surprised at the quality shown against a professional side.
A victory like this can only boost confidence and set the Nailers up for a strong start to the season.