Belper Town 4-2 Matlock Town
Alex Steadman’s hat-trick earned the Belper striker some personal revenge and knocked holders Matlock out of the Derbyshire Senior Cup at the first time of asking at the Marstons Stadium on Tuesday night.
Steadman was a substitute in the Gresley side hammered 7-0 by the Gladiators in last season’s final. But even with Matlock fielding their eleven fittest players having been riddled with injuries, including reserve team defender Tom Laister, third choice goalkeeper Ryan Pugh and fielding striker Alex Peterson as an emergency central defender, Matlock should have won the tie with plenty to spare.
They wasted chance after chance to leave Belper still in the match when they should have been dead and buried,
The Gladiators made the perfect start, Jack Siddall feeding Craig Nelthorpe from an Eric Graves misplaced pass and NELTHORPE calmly stroked a neat finish beyond teenage Nailers goalkeeper Charlie Mansfield in only the 4th minute.
Matlock were dominating the early play and Jack Siddall twice might have increased Matlock’s tally only to fail when it mattered, Belper levelling in the 19th minute from their first chance from open play. Jonathan Williams had curled a free kick wide on 13 minutes but then the ever dangerous Rob Stevenson latched on to a faulty visitors clearance to slip a neat ball through the left for STEADMAN to net with an angled drive.
Joel Purkiss pulled a shot wide from a partially cleared free kick before Mansfield began to stake his claim for Nailers’ star man with a quality diving save to tip Ted Cribley’s low shot around a post at full length.
Adam Yates’ excellent interception denied Steadman a shot on goal before Stevenson screwed his shot narrowly wide from the resulting flag kick. Then Matlock could have easily gone in for their half time cuppa in front, instead they were behind.
From the first of two corners, Cribley and Purkiss combined when the ball was played short for Mansfield to excel again with a brilliant fingertip over the bar from a Purkiss curler, and from the second, Siddall’s close range header cannoned off the bar. Belper then broke to win a free kick which Pugh struggled to claim, STEADMAN firstly hitting the crossbar before the ball fell sweetly for him to fire home.
But Matlock were back on equal terms four minutes after the restart when Nelthorpe’s incisive cross from the left was headed goalwards by PURKISS, Mansfield again superbly keeping the ball out only for the Gladiator to ram in the loose ball.
Just ninety seconds later Nelthorpe broke through again, his chip over Mansfield dropping against the underside of the bar with Matlock players claiming it had crossed the line. Siddall was then inches away from converting another Nelthorpe centre with Belper under heavy pressure.
Then Nelthorpe wasted a glorious opportunity, through on his own with only Mansfield to beat, only to overrun the ball after rounding the exposed custodian.
More chances came and went, a teasing Nicky Travis cross being missed by everyone, Yates inches away from heading in a Nelthorpe free kick and Mansfield again in the way with a fantastic save from Nelthorpe’s stinging drive.
The sucker punch came in a rare Belper break when Stevenson ghosted past Laister on the left who clumsily felled him and STEADMAN stroked home the spot kick for his hat-trick as the hosts regained the lead with twelve minutes left.
Matlock’s slick attacking play of earlier disappeared but they still should have been given the chance to force extra time at least when Purkiss strode beyond Ross Parker who held him back for a clear cut penalty. But Belper struck lucky as referee Hopton did not blow and they made it a flattering scoreline when substitute EVAN GARNETT’s shot took a deflection to deceive Pugh for their fourth in stoppage time.
Even with the four goals conceded, Matlock still had enough chances to win and will frankly reflect that they had only themselves to blame for their exit.
BELPER TOWN: 1 Charlie Mansfield 2 Luke Shaw (15 Yuyi Kabanje 72) 3 Aaron Cole 4 Jonathan Williams 5 Ross Parker 6 Philip Watt 7 Rob Stevenson (16 George Johnson 85) 8 Eric Graves 9 Alex Steadman 10 Laurence Constable (12 Evan Garnett 69) 11 Tyrell Shannon-Lewis Other subs: 14 Ben Watkiss 17 Danny Haystead
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Ryan Pugh 2 Tom Laister 3 Ben Algar 4 Nicky Travis 5 Adam Yates 6 Alex Peterson 7 Ted Cribley 8 Liam Needham 9 Joel Purkiss 10 Jack Siddall (14 Niall McManus 72) 11 Craig Nelthorpe Other subs: 12 Scott Maxfield 15 Matt Wilkinson 16 Sam Lavelle
REFEREE: Nick Hopton (Derby) ATTENDANCE: 187 BEST NAILER: Rob Stevenson BEST GLADIATOR: Craig Nelthorpe