​Despair then joy for Belper in Bank Holiday thrillers

Cameron Johnson fires home Belper's opener on Monday at Grantham. All photos by Mike Smith. (Photo: d)
Cameron Johnson fires home Belper's opener on Monday at Grantham. All photos by Mike Smith. (Photo: d)

​A 4-3 loss at home to Dunston UTS on Saturday saw Belper throw away a 3-1 lead to lose late on with both sides having a man sent off, before they were then 2-1 down in the closing minutes at Grantham Town before two goals in injury-time turned the game in the Nailers’ favour.

Saturday’s encounter saw it’s first drama came on 17 minutes when Danny South, prostrate on the ground, stopped Sado Djalo’s goalbound shot with his hand and received a red card for his efforts. Dale Pearson made no mistake from the penalty spot.

Belper’s fine endeavours after going down to ten men were rewarded when Phil Watt scored from close range.

Phil Watt celebrates the dramatic winner at Grantham. (Photo: s)
Phil Watt celebrates the dramatic winner at Grantham. (Photo: s)

Within two minutes of the restart the Nailers went ahead. Kevin Bastos made a strong run to collect a through ball and went on to blast the ball home from 15 yards.

Then it was Dunston’s turn to have a player sent off and it was their captain Michael Pearson who saw red after lunging into Bastos.

Watt was then in the right place to lash in his second goal following a Curtis Burrows free kick on 61 minutes, but in the 65th minute Luke Carr headed in to reduce the arrears.

It was all square at 3-3 on 77 minutes when David Robinson met a free kick and glanced the ball home, then Dunston won it from the spot on 88 minutes as Luke Martin fouled Pearson who duly stepped up to convert the spot kick.

Belper boss Lee Attenborough said afterwards: “It’s a difficult one to sum up because we almost played the game to an absolute T with ten men.

"It got to 3-1 up then even though they went down to ten men I still feel that the early red card has cost us because we were dead on our feet. We’d put so much into that first hour because they are a good side and moved the ball really well and they rotate.”

On Monday, the Nailers took the lead on 25 minutes. Cameron Johnson’s sheer determination won him a difficult shot on goal and his angled drive went in just inside the far post.

Grantham went in front early in the second-half when they took advantage of indecision in the Belper six-yard area and Akeel Francis nipped in to score from close range.

Then in the 80th minute when a misunderstanding between Hedge and skipper Phil Watt allowed Rodrigo Goncalves the opportunity to run 30 yards to put the ball into the empty net.

But a dramatic eight minutes of added time totally transformed the game.

With a sense of urgency instilled in the Belper players, an onslaught on the Grantham goal ensued. Then in the fourth minute of added time, the comeback started when Bastos headed home after South had helped on a free kick.

Then with time running out and not settling for a point the Nailers were relentless in their pressure, and in the 98th minute Watt volleyed in a close-range effort in amongst a packed six-yard area to send players and supporters into raptures.

Attenborough said: "The celebrations at the end were probably all our frustrations of the game coming out. It’s brilliant to win a game the way we’ve just won it. When I sit back and look at the performance though, honestly, we were awful today.

“It was probably the worst it’s been since I've been at the club, not just this season but last season as well. We dropped our standards today and the tempo of the game was so slow.

"Whether that’s because we played on Saturday, maybe, but it took us until we were 2-1 down before we released the shackles a bit. That last ten minutes is what we want to be although I’m not naïve, we can’t keep that tempo up for 90 minutes.”