Leek produced arguably their best performance of the season as they became the first club to lower Belper’s colours in league action this season thanks to a goal in either half from Josh Agbozo and Lewis Short. A superb defensive display – expertly marshalled by skipper Darren Chadwick – denied everything flung at them by a robust Nailers’ outfit and allowed the Blues to move into second spot in the table.
The game was played at a fast and furious pace with the first effort coming from the home side when George Milner’s cross was hit into the keeper’s arms by Kyle Bryant. But the visitors struck back with Tim Grice hitting narrowly wide before Rob Stevenson had Belper goalie Ryan Musselwhite scrambling to push the strike round his post.
With the game moving rapidly from end-to end the deadlock was almost broken when a counter-attack from Matt Bell saw him firing a fierce shot that was arrowing to the top corner. Musselwhite showed all 0f his acrobatic skills and his flying save pushed the ball over the bar.
That save was quickly made to count for nothing. A cross from the left caught Belper’s defenders square and flat-footed and Agbozo was able to drift to the far post and tap in from close range despite some desperate appeals for offside.
The hosts tried to up their game but were given little change from a resolute Leek team and the nearest they came to levelling was a Derry Robson effort in the dying seconds of the first period that landed safely in Danny Roberts’ grasp.
The deciding goal came shortly after the break with another counter that released Short down the left. The midfielder cut infield before unleashing a low drive that beat the keeper to nestle in the far corner of the net.
The Blues had the opportunities to settle the result long before the end. Agbozo headed over from a good position and a rattled Nailers’ midfield was cut open far too easily. A mixture of poor final balls and some decisive last-ditch tackles from Danny South, who held a creaking defence together, meant that a clear opportunity for that crucial third goal never came.
Belper threw the kitchen sink at Leek in the closing stages but – despite the use of some unorthodox attacking skills from South – the visiting defenders held firm. Roberts pushed aside an effort from Robson and Charlie Dawes was unable to keep his shot down after Riece Bertram had headed the ball into his path. But this was to be Leek’s day as they picked up three precious points in their quest for promotion.
After the match Leek boss Neil Baker spoke exclusively to Moorlands Radio. He said “We were excellent. We knew what to expect. I don’t think Belper make any secret of how they play. They play for set plays and they are dangerous off set plays. Leek dealt well with them most of the time.
Chadders has been terrific ever since he came back and we have missed Ollie Harrison. His height was useful to us today and I thought the midfield were good for us as well.
I asked them to be bold and brave because you have to stand up to what they do. I thought we lashed the ball away too much in the first half but in the second half I thought our counter-attacking was good until the final ball and I don’t think we made as many opportunities as we could have done.
I’m being a bit picky because I asked them what dressing room I’ve got before the game. I think they have gone and shown me.”