With Tom Sherratt and Nick Morris unavailable today, Chris Burton still away in Switzerland, Smooth not back yet from Australia and releasing 3 players to play in the under 18’s cup game today it was still a good strength squad that travelled to fellow National League Club St Albans for our penultimate friendly prior to the league re starting in just 2 weeks time.
Todays game saw us award a debut for our latest signing young Jack Gutteridge and also the welcomed return from injury of Steve Batten who has been out with ligament damage since November.
In torrential rain and freezing winds we made the worst possible start as St Albans capitalised from a double defensive error to score from close range on just 35 seconds. If this had occured back in October we would have been worried but times have changed at Belper and we soon began to dominate proceedings.
All over the park you could see the confidence growing and it felt inevitable that we would soon take our chances as the Midfield were working hard and causing St Albans to chase shadows at times leaving the Nailers in total command.
The goal scoring was started on 10 mins by Joe Paul finishing a slick P Corner routine, this was followed just 4 mins later by Ben Walton getting his 1st of the day also from a corner set play. 2-1 up and in charge.
As St Albans began to crumble under the pressure it was Walton on 24 mins who forced the Centre Back to turn over the ball leaving him with a 1 on 1, with calmness he slotted the ball under the advancing keeper for the Nailers 3rd, but not to be outdone fellow striker Drew Burkin also got into the act on 31 mins with a close range strike of his own to secure the Nailers 4th.
It could so easily have been even more as 1st Dave Ebbage saw his effort beat the keeper but aggonisingly hit the post followed quickly by the St Albans keeper then pulling off 2 good PC saves.
St Albans 1 – 4 Nailers
With the rain just not relenting the 2nd half was a tough encounter as both teams suffered in the conditions. Nailers were not helped as 2 green Card suspensions inside 20 seconds saw them go down to just 9 players for 2 minutes (1 absolutely deserved 1 with totally the wrong player carded- very funny) but we held strong and saw out the penalties to carry on where we left off.
As the domination continued it was a shock that St Albans found a way through on 44 mins to bring the scores closer at 2-4 but it was the returning Steve Batten who was to have the final say.
On 53 mins a well worked move through midfield saw Batten do what he does best, driving through the heart of the St Albans defence and despite the last defender getting a touch on the ball it just deflected up slightly and as Batten re-collected the ball the bounce was kind and he SMASHED the ball home from 13 yards out to get a welcome and thunderous goal.
With Man of the Match and Captain Mark Lamb in imperious form the Nailers never looked in trouble from there on in and saw the time out to record a 4th pre season win on the bounce.
St Albans 2 – 5 Nailers
With Coach Will Murray not travelling this week I suppose its left up to me to have the final say on todays Match:
(Andy Taylor Manager)
A solid performance all round today with lots of promising play but still with things to work on.
Mark Lamb was a class act today and it was great to see Steve Batten return to the team with a possitive performance.
With our National League match v Deeside now just 2 weeks away selection is getting harder every week as the guys are putting in some solid performances, with today being one of them.
When you take into account that 7 of the squad did not travel today, you can see it’s causing the management of the squad some real selection headaches (possitive ones) as each and every one of the National League Squad could argue the case for their own inclusion in the team.
4 games since Christmas, 28 goals scored and just 4 conceeded with 4 wins, got to be happy with that.
(MAN OF THE MATCH CPT MARK LAMB)