First Team vs. Belper Town (1 : 1)
Evo-Stik League East Division
A stoppage time equaliser from Mitchell Dunne gave Club a well-deserved share of the spoils, writes Stuart James, as they came from behind to draw a highly entertaining Boxing Day Derby with Belper Town at Christchurch Meadows.
Once again it was the curse of the ex-Clubbie that came to haunt Sheffield, as former favourites Danny South gave the Nailers a first half lead, however it was the same man who went from hero to villain, being shown a red card that spurred the away side to a vital point in the race for the play-offs.
On a heavy pitch, both sides took time to get going, but both were showing signs of ambition with the adventurous football being played on the flanks by both teams.
Belper showed where their strengths lay in the first fifteen minutes, as a long throw picked out big Danny South, who directed a powerful header that forced keeper Adam Kelsey to make a spectacular tip over the bar.
Sadly, the visitors failed to learn from this blatant hint, as from the resulting corner SOUTH found himself in acres of space again, this time making no mistake to put Belper 1-0 in front.
Sheffield came back fighting and had efforts from Jamie Yates and James Gregory saved by the keeper, whilst Stuart Ludlam maintained his strong form by denying Piteu Crouz, making a fantastic sliding last-ditch tackle.
The visitors really should have levelled if not for some amazing keeping from man-of-the-match Leigh Overton, who made a triple save to deny James Gregory, Luke Rawson and Sam Wright in a mad ten seconds of football.
Club went even closer just before the break, as Matty Downing put a ball through that was missed by the defence, with James Gregory and Luke Rawson combining to force the ball goalwards, only to see Danny South scramble the ball off the line.
The second half had a very slow start, with Belper happy to absorb everything thrown their way, and Sheffield struggling to break a very resistant defence.
Club did get the ball in the net after a long solo run from Ben Turner found him in the area with the goal at his mercy, the choice to play Rawson in may have ended with the ball beyond Overton, the linesman’s raised flag for offside evidence it was the wrong one.
Midway through the second half came what proved to be a pivotal point in the match, Sheffield clearing a goalmouth scramble as far as Rawson who was about to set off on another breakaway, only to see the giant figure of Danny South skittle the youngster with an atrocious tackle – the referee having no hesitation to produce the red card.
Sheffield immediately made an attacking substitution by bringing on Mitchell Dunne, playing three up front, and changing the tide instantaneously.
What followed was one-way traffic, James Gregory tearing through the middle on more than one occasion, and the substitute Dunne wasting more than one effort with uncharacteristic poor finishing.
Inspired defending maintained Belper’s lead, as scrambled clearances and brave blocks denied Club the equaliser, and they soon felt brave enough to venture out and test at the other end as Nathan Curtis was denied by Adam Kelsey and ex-Clubbie Derry Robson saw his effort cleared off the line by Ben Turner.
It was the away side that snatched their just reward in the second minute of stoppage time, yet again Gregory was the creator, with DUNNE on the spot to fire the ball past Overton’s hand to give the score the parity it deserved.
Belper Town: Overton, Assenso, Clark, Robson, South, Peterson ©, Nelthorpe, Gordon, Curtis, Milner, Crouz. Subs: Duggan, Colbear, Sturgess, Hough, Thompson.
Sheffield FC: Kelsey, Turner, Downing, Patterson, Ludlam, Chapman ©, Yates, Wright, Rawson, Newsham, Gregory. Subs: Hastings, Dunne, Grayson, Eagle, Winter.