Belper United 2 Southwell City 2 (HT 2-2)
Central Midlands League South Division
Programme £1 (20pp, commendable effort for this league)
Attendance 52 (h/c, including six other hoppers)
All the excitement at Alton Manor was crammed into the opening half-hour, which produced four goals. Belper were ahead inside the first minute when Joe Wheeler capitalised on a defensive howler. Jordan McRobie (20min) stabbed in the hosts' second after a long-range Mark Brewster shot had been parried, but Southwell made the most of extremely slack work in the Belper penalty area to equalise within a minute through Tom MacDonald's close-range effort. Goal of the game came in the 30th minute, City's Grant Russell cracking a sublime 30-yarder into the bottom corner, though United keeper Adam Jablonski might feel he should have made a save.
The Belper ground, high above the main part of the Amber Valley town, was whipped by an increasingly strong wind, and the game rather petered out in a scrappy second half. Belper did hit a post through Wheeler (46min) and Southwell saw an 87th-minute James Spence header chalked off following a mysterious infringement spotted by a linesman. In stoppage time, home sub Matt Smith somehow skied a sidefoot over the bar when unmarked eight yards from goal.
No floodlights at Alton Manor, which meant conditions were distinctly murky in the last 20 minutes. As others have reported, it's a nice little ground. There is an octagonal block housing the dressing rooms behind the goal at the west end and a small area of cover in the opposite (north-east) corner. It seems an odd place to put a stand, but there is simply no room on either side. Hardstanding (well, aggregate) has been laid along the south touchline and west end, with grass doing the job on the north touchline and east end. The pitch, not the greatest, is enclosed with a post and rail barrier. In the north-west corner, a food trailer (apparently nothing to do with the club) served refreshments. I wasn't tempted.
With regard to their future at this venue, Belper are pretty much in the dark. Houses (additions to a fairly new estate) are being built on the east and west sides by Peveril Homes, who, it seems, have planning permission for more on the site of the pitch. The original deal was for the developer to construct a new ground for the club nearby, but that now appears to be very much up in the air. In the meantime, United, keen not to lose their recently acquired CML status, are seeking new premises.