• Nigel Oldrini

Belper are held in Spalding six-goal thriller

A capacity crowd witnessed a thoroughly entertaining encounter between Belper Town and Spalding United on Saturday, although home fans may well question how the Nailers could lose the lead on three occasions to draw the game 3-3.

This was a pulsating game from the start and Spalding, with plenty of new signings including former Newcastle United striker Nile Ranger, posed many problems for the Nailers.

The Tulips also included much-travelled former Football League striker Spencer Weir-Daley and Christian Assombalonga (brother of Middlesbrough’s Britt) all of whom formed a potent strike force.

The Nailers included recent loan signing Tom Wilson from Stalybridge Celtic and he went straight into the starting line up to replace Tyreece Robinson who was nursing a hamstring injury, as was Ben Rhodes who also missed out.

Action from Belper v Spalding. Photo: Mike Smith

Piteu Crouz nearly caught out the Tulips’ ‘keeper in the third minute with a crisply struck overhead kick, however he easily topped his earlier effort a minute later with a mazy run and accurate finish to score a fantastic opening goal for the Nailers.

Steve McDonnell was close to beating the ‘keeper with a cheeky snap shot two minutes later and already the game was shaping up to be something better than the norm. Ranger saw an opening after a poor clearance from Leigh Overton but his 35 yard effort went narrowly wide.

As the visitors settled into the game Belper had to soak up pressure and in the 25th minute the Tulips equalised when Lewis Brownhill found space to fire the ball home from 15 yards.

Assombalonga shot wide soon afterwards when he should have found the target and he was again at fault when he couldn’t find a finish after Spalding broke impressively in the 35th minute.

Action from Belper v Spalding. Photo: Mike Smith

The Nailers turned the tables in impressive style in the 42nd minute. T’nique Fishley’s excellent interception and quick thinking set Craig Nelthorpe away on the left and his pin point cross to the far post was met with a perfect header from Steve McDonnell and their lead was restored.

The lead lasted barely two minutes as Spalding took advantage of confusion in the Belper defence and Weir-Daley tapped the ball over the line for a second Tulips equaliser.

There was still time before the break for Belper’s Wilson to head against the crossbar from a Nathan Curtis centre.

The second period was equally as exciting and frustrating dependent on which team you supported, and Nailers fans were soon cheering in the 49th minute when McDonnell’s long throw caused havoc in the Tulips’ defence and it was Chib Chilaka who snapped up the loose ball to restore Belper’s lead for a third time.

Once again Belper couldn’t hold on and in the 59th minute Ranger scored with a huge leap and header from a corner kick, leaving Belper defenders looking at each and wondering who should have been marking him.

Chib Chilaka is congratulated after scoring. Photo: Mike Smith

There were no more goals, just bags of excitement as the Nailers slowly began to dominate the fourth quarter of the game. McDonnell had a good effort saved by Michael Duggan on 64 minutes and Chilaka went very close with a shot four minutes later.

Belper pressure mounted and an air of desperation crept into Spalding’s play.

Chilaka got behind the Tulips’ defence on 77 minutes and put a dangerous cross into the six yard area to no avail, and then McDonnell looked odds on to get the winner with ten minutes to go but screwed his shot wide.

Danny South had a great chance to score on 87 minutes after a corner kick had dropped kindly for him but he couldn’t keep his shot down and the opportunity was lost.

The Nailers continued to push hard into the visitors’ final third but they just couldn’t find the winner that their performance deserved.

Belper Town: Overton, Woodcock, Fishley, Nelthorpe, South, Wilson, Robson, Wright, McConnell, Curtis (Litchfield 49), Crouz (Chillaki 33) Subs not used: Spence. Gregory, Carvell.

Spalding United: Duggan, Floyd, Flitton, Clarke, Foster (Goddard 47), Price, Brownhill, Ya Ya, Weir-Daley (Fenton 74), Assombalonga, Ranger. Unused subs: Zuerner, Painter.

Referee: Daniel Tracey

Att: 400