Belper Town FC

Belper Town FC
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Belper Town's unusual nickname, 'The Nailers', came about because the craft of nail making began In Belper in the middle ages when it was the site of a hunting lodge for John of Gaunt. The huntsmen needed nails for the shoes of their horses and the trade in nails eventually grew.

Nail making was a domestic industry with the Nailers working in family groups but, in 1861, the introduction of machinery to manufacture nails was the begin¬ning of the end for the local trade which died out altogether at the beginning of the century to be replaced by modern industry and commerce in the town.

Like the nail making industry, Belper Town FC has faded away in the past. Origi¬nally formed in 1883, the Nailers went out of existence three times through lack of finance.

The main highlight in those early years was an FA Cup 1st Round tie against Sheffield Wednesday on 15th October 1887 in which the Nailers were narrowly defeated 2-3 by the Yorkshire giants.

In those days, the club played on the Acorn ground, which is just under half a mile from the current ground but in truth there is very little documentary evidence of the club’s early history, although fixture lists, membership cards and some photographs all dated from around the turn of the century, are held in the club’s archives.

The Club reformed, possibly for the fourth time, in 1951 and took up residence at the current ground at Christchurch Meadow. In those early days, there were very few amenities on the ground and for a number of seasons, players used to get changed at the Talbot Hotel, a few hundred yards from the ground.

Eventually, a prefabricated building was acquired to house the dressing rooms and a small clubroom whilst an atmospheric old stand was in use for over 40 years prior to the more recent ground improvements.

The ground was purchased in 1986 from the Tootal Group, owners of the adjacent mill complex, for the princely sum of £6,000 and has afforded the club the security of tenure over its facilities ever since.

Lying in a picturesque setting, the Marston's Stadium is now well appointed with excellent facilities and a first class playing surface.

The club has made many improvements in recent seasons, including new dressing rooms and conference facilities built in 1999. In 2003, the club opened a new 500-seater stand to bring the stadium up to NPL Premier Division standard and beyond.

This supplemented the provision of an earlier covered stand that accommodates 300 spectators, improved spectator terracing and perimeter barriers. The current ground capacity is 2,640.

New floodlights were installed in 2014 at a cost of £76,000, which more than doubled the intensity of the previous system. The new floodlights are of Football Conference standard.

On the playing side, the club joined the Central Alliance League on its reformation in 1951, taking over the fixtures of Mansfield Town ‘A’ who withdrew their team midway through the season.

In the early years, Belper Town enjoyed its record attendance when 3,600 fans turned up to see Belper play Ilkeston Town. Regular four figure attendances were commonplace at Christchurch Meadow in those days.

Season 1958/59 was a turning point as the Nailers outshone wealthy Heanor Town and Ilkeston Town, their strongly backed neighbours, with 2,000+ gates to win the Central Alliance League championship and the Derbyshire Senior Cup.

Three years later, they were invited to join the revamped Midland Counties League although three times the Club finished bottom of the League, the last time in 1978/79, when only the charitable overtures of member clubs at the League AGM saved Belper from comparative obscurity once again.

Under the astute managership of lvan Hollett and John Harrison, the Nailers responded to the challenge in magnificent style by winning the Midland Counties League championship in the very next season and, just for good measure, the Derby¬shire Senior Cup as well.

The Midland Counties League merged with the Yorkshire League in 1982 to form the Northern Counties East League and the Nailers won the League Championship in 1984/85 the guidance of the late Harry Bethell.

The championship success that season coincided with the arrival of former Derby County and England striker, Kevin Hector.

However, lack of finance at that time held the Club back from taking up a place in the newly formed First Division of the Northern Premier League.

In more recent seasons the club has enjoyed tremendous success in the FA Vase, reaching the 5" Round twice and also a semi-final appearance in which they lost 2-3 on aggregate to Oxford City, having won the first leg 1-0 at home, in front of nearly 2,000 spectators.

Highlights that season included a 5-1 win at Falmouth Town (the longest distance ever travelled for a competitive match) and a 1-0 success at Metropolitan Police in the quarter final.

Having achieved the runners-up position in the Northern Counties League in 1996/97 under the excellent stewardship of Martin Rowe, the Club took its place in the Northern Premier League 12 years after the first opportunity had been spurned.

Initially the club did well in the NPL but then struggled in sunbequent seasons. Ernie Moss and his assistant, Sean O’Neil, kept the club safely away from the relegation positions during their time in charge at Christchurch Meadow but the club did not really challenge for honours.

Ernie and Sean resigned their positions midway through the 2006/07 season, to be replaced by goalkeeper, Andy Carney and club captain, Danny Hudson, initially on a caretaker basis. The joint managers did more than enough though to secure the managerial reins on a permanent basis and enjoyed consistently successful results in the League during their time in charge..

The new managerial team achieved their first piece of silverware in 2008 by winning the Derbyshire Senior Cup with a 4-3 aggregate victory over neighbours, Alfreton Town

In 2008/09, the Nailers finished the league campaign in second place, having secured 81 points and equalling their record points score of 1984/85 when the club won the Northern Counties East League championship. A heartbreaking home defeat in the play-off final against Stocksbridge Park Steels was a bitter pill to swallow.

But the Nailers went close again the following season before just missing out for a play-off position by finishing in sixth position. They did capture the League President’s Cup with a 3-1 victory over Stamford but missed out on a cup double, losing 0-2 against neighbours Matlock Town in the Derbyshire Senior Cup Final at Pride Park Stadium.

The end of the season saw the resignation of manager Andy Carney after a six-year stint at the club and the appointment in the close season of former West Ham and England International defender, Tommy Taylor, as the club’s new manager assisted by Jon Froggatt, the clubs leading goal scorer in the 2010/11 season.

But, the expected early season expectations failed to materialise and Taylor resigned his position after just nine games in charge, leaving the Nailers with only two wins to their credit.

The Belper board acted quickly to appoint former Retford United manager, Peter Duffield into the hot seat, supported by Mick Godber as his assistant and Shaun Hird as first team coach.

Results in their first season at Christchurch Meadow were quite remarkable with the team winning 44 points out of possible 48 in the final run-in to the campaign, but the club just missed out on the play-offs by a single goal difference.

Despite a poor start to the 2012/13 season and lying in bottom place in mid-October, the Nailers embarked on a 25-match unbeaten league sequence that saw them gain an automatic play-off position.

But heartbreak was to repeat itself at the end of the season when a home defeat against eventual promotion club Stamford in the first play-off match, consigned the Nailers to another season in the First Division.

The club finally made it into the NPL Premier Division at the end of a hard fought 2013/14 League campaign in which they finished the regular season in fourth place.

A 2-0 semi-final play-off win at Leek Town set up a home tie against Derbyshire rivals Mickleover Sports and a 1-0 success in that final game earned the Nailers the promotion they had been craving after 17 seasons in the League’s lower tier.

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League Tables

The Evo-Stik League Northern Premier » Premier Division

1 Buxton 11 24
2 Skelmersdale United 12 24
3 Curzon Ashton 12 22
4 Ilkeston FC 10 16
5 Rushall Olympic 10 16
6 Stamford 9 16
7 Ramsbottom United 12 16
8 Stourbridge 10 15
9 FC United of Manchester 10 15
10 Workington 10 15
11 Trafford 12 15
12 Frickley Athletic 12 15
13 Kings Lynn Town 10 14
14 Whitby Town 10 13
15 Nantwich Town 11 13
16 Witton Albion 12 13
17 Barwell 10 12
18 Grantham Town 10 12
19 Ashton United 10 11
20 Marine 11 10
21 Blyth Spartans 9 9
22 Matlock Town 10 8
23 Halesowen Town 10 8
24 Belper Town 11 8

Last updated Tuesday 30th September, 23:53