Morris helps Nailers secure a point that could prove vital to their survival.
With the Nailers right in the midst of a relegation battle Sundays visitors Durham Uni were going to test the home teams resolve to its fullest.
The loss earlier in the week of both centre halves – Joe Paul through suspension and Richard Kitchen through injury – certainly didn’t help Belpers cause and on Saturday morning when the news came through that top scorer Ben Walton had pulled out with a hamstring strain the fixture was made harder than Belper wanted.
The squad was re-assembled with the introduction of Ashley Blakemore, the returning Nick Morris and a debut was given to young Ben Hurst.
The first encounter this season between the side saw Durhan completely out run and out play the Nailers for large parts of the game but this time Belper were a different team and set about proving just what improvements we have made.
From the off the Nailers pushed hard at Durham and more than competed. With chances coming at regular intervals in the first 20 mins for both teams it was the 2 keepers that showed their importance as both made great saves to keep the scores level.
On 24 mins it was Durham who made the breakthrough from an Ollie Davies penalty corner on 24 mins to give the visitors the lead.
Belper pushed hard to get back in to the match with the ever dangerous Tom Sherratt and Drew Burkin both coming close while at the other end the Nailers Keeper Chris Burton stood firm and made 2 great saves himself.
½ time Nailers 0 – 1 Durham
The 2nd ½ started at breakneck speed with Durham looking to put the match away and Belper fighting for their lives, but it was Durhams indiscipline and some harsh umpiring that saw them receive 3 yellow cards in the half.
With the Belper guys fighting for their lives it was ‘the old boy’ Morris who was to give the Nailers a massive boost as on 52 mins he pounced on a loose ball following great overlapping play from the returning Ashley Blakemore who following great attacking full-back play drove the ball inside the Durham ‘D’ and as the ball found its way through to Morris he was able to thrash home a waist high volley to bring the scores level at 1-1 and send all the home bench and supporters into raptures.
The pace of the game was relentless with every Belper player giving every ounce of what they had to try to get the all-important winner.
With 10 mins to go the news came through that both teams below Belper had gained key victories so the pressure was now all on the Nailers.
With the crowd right behind the Nailers it felt like we had gone back 6 years, the players gave every ounce they had but the one thing we couldn’t control was the time and it was the clock that finally ran out to see Belper gain a huge point in the relegation battle, finishing the game 1-1.
Manager Taylor commented:
With the losses of key players today it was great to see we have good strength in depth with Morris and Blakemore coming back in to great effect and also to see young Ben Hurst being given his National League Debut.
The intensity the guys played with today was nothing short of immense.
We absolutely deserved the point we got and with the way other results went today it could prove vital with just 2 games to go.
Our National League future is in our own hands, 2 wins in our final 2 games will see National League Hockey preserved for another season no matter what our rivals do.
It won’t be easy but with an away game at Wakefield this Sunday and finishing at Home against Khalsa we have a chance.