Belper United.......... 4 (Smyth 3', Hanslow 8', Garnett 28', Guy 42')
Gedling MW............ 2 (Wiggins-Thomas 33', Brett 88')
Gedling Miners Welfare suffered their second league defeat on the road this season as Belper United ran out 4-2 winners in an engaging contest at The Raygar Stadium.
A clinical first half performance proved the difference as the hosts raced into a virtually unassailable lead. The Miners responded with a much improved second half display but they had left themselves too much to do and ultimately came up short despite a gutsy effort.
The hosts started well and wasted little time in testing out Gedling ’keeper Matthew Simpson who was forced to make a sharp stop with his legs with barely a minute on the clock.
This proved a sign of what was to come as Belper took the lead in the third minute. Simpson again made a good save but the rebound bounced to the edge of the area and waiting there was captain Martin Smyth, who ran onto it and curled the ball into the top left corner.
Belper then doubled their lead inside the first ten minutes. James Ozmen found Richard Hanslow with a precise pass and the striker produced a composed finish to slot the ball beyond Simpson.
Four minutes later, Hanslow almost had his second when he was played clean through by Smyth but he was denied by an excellent save by Simpson who blocked the ball behind for a corner.
It took 17 minutes before Gedling fashioned their first notable opportunity of the evening. Courtney Hastings weaved his way into a shooting opportunity on the edge of the area but couldn’t keep his shot down and it blazed over the crossbar.
Two minutes later, Gedling were on the defensive again and it took a Ross McCaughey clearance off the goalline to prevent the deficit from increasing as Belper continued to dominate.
Gedling reacted with a quick fire counter attack and worked the ball to Solomon Miller, who was bundled to the ground just as he was ready to pull the trigger. Much to the frustration of the visitors, the referee, Peter Craggs, waved the appeals away.
Despite the disappointment of not being awarded a spot kick, the momentum swung towards Gedling and with 25 minutes played, Hastings struck a fierce drive from the edge of the area. The Belper ’keeper, Scott Whittingham, appeared to have got his positioning spot on but made a meal of the save and spilled the ball behind for a corner.
Just as Gedling were finding their feet in the match, they made a crucial error, giving the ball away on the halfway line. Belper pounced and punished them ruthlessly with their third goal of the game. Smyth found Dylan Garnett, who was brilliant throughout, and he calmly stroked the ball beyond Simpson into the back of the net.
Gedling reacted well to the setback and got themselves on the scoresheet after 33 minutes. Ruben Wiggins-Thomas wriggled past a defender and into a good position in the box before he appeared to be hauled to the ground. Again, Craggs showed little interest in awarding the penalty but Wiggins-Thomas maintained concentration and whilst on his backside, managed to flick out his right leg and slide the ball into the corner of the net; a truly excellent piece of improvisation.
Gedling were in the ascendancy now and they had the ball in the back of the net again within two minutes of their first goal. Kyme Mason slid in to win the ball back and it broke to Wiggins-Thomas who coolly slotted it home. However, the goal was disallowed as Mason was adjudged to have committed a foul when challenging for the ball.
With two major decisions going against them, Gedling’s frustration was compounded when Belper added a fourth goal just before half time against the run of play. A corner kick ricocheted to John Guy and he lashed it into the net. As tensions rose, Hastings said too much and was sin binned for dissent.
The half time whistle sounded and brought to an end an exasperating half for the visitors.
It was clear that an effective team talk had taken place during the break as Gedling began the second half on the front foot. Belper seemed content to protect the lead they had but equally struggled to find the attacking fluency they had enjoyed in the first half. Gedling’s rearguard was also much more solid and they succeeded in shutting the hosts out for the entirety of the second half with relative ease.
Despite enjoying more possession it took ten minutes before Gedling carved out a good scoring opportunity. Kieran Harrison drove to the edge of the area and hit a venomous shot which an alert Whittingham did well to tip over the crossbar.
Gedling continued to press and when Belper struggled to clear a corner, Felix Hogg, on as a substitute, clipped a delightful ball into the six yard box and picked out Steven Brett. The centre half controlled the ball well but his shot at goal wasn’t struck cleanly and Whittingham was able to make a relatively comfortable save.
The hosts only occasionally threatened in the second half and with just ten minutes remaining, Jack Tyson spurned arguably their best chance. He fired the ball over the crossbar when one on one with Simpson after good work from Ozmen.
With time running out, Gedling refused to give up and captain Josh Thornton was unlucky not to see his free kick hit the back of the net. Instead, Whittingham palmed the ball behind for a corner.
As the match entered the final couple of minutes, Gedling got the goal that their play merited. Dwayne Brown clipped a lovely cross into the back post and Brett rose unmarked to head home from a couple of yards out.
The goal proved to be a mere consolation and was scant reward for a much improved second half performance.
They don’t have to wait long until their first opportunity to bounce back however, as they travel to Clipstone on Saturday for their sixth league game of the season.
Manager Andy Clerke said: “I’m disappointed. I thought the game was dead at half time. It’s hard to put into words to be honest, they're a good side, they’ve got some good players. We knew what to expect, they're on a bit of a roll but I don’t think we helped ourselves tonight. We never got going in the first half. I thought there were some big contentious decisions that didn’t go our way but at the same time we’ve got to create our own luck.”
Gedling Miners Welfare Man of the Match – Ruben Wiggins-Thomas
Match Attendance – 67
Referee – Peter Craggs
Assistant referees – Nick Lees and Mick Newton
Belper United – Scott Whittingham, Robert Mulonga, John Guy, Martin Smyth (C) , Fraser Kirk, Oliver Simpson, Dylan Garnett, Jack Tyson, Richard Hanslow, James Ozmen, Jake Dodds
Used Substitutes – Benjamin Robinson, Curtis Williamson
Unused Substitutes – Josh Wight, Thomas Rushby, James Rushby
Cautions – Benjamin Robinson
Gedling Miners Welfare – Matthew Simpson, Dwayne Brown, Ross McCaughey, Kyme Mason (Felix Hogg 50’), Steven Brett, Charlie Roberts, Josh Thornton, Kieran Harrison (Finlay Gaynor 75’), Courtney Hastings, Ruben Wiggins-Thomas, Solomon Miller (Kevin Hemagou 67’).
Unused Substitutes – Richemone Sylla
Cautions – Josh Thornton 41’ , Courtney Hastings 43’, Steven Brett 53’