There are less than two weeks to go now before Belper Town embark on what they hope will be a significant campaign that culminates in promotion.
The Nailers will kick off their 16th season in the Evo-Stik First Division and, arguably, the expectation surrounding this campaign is greater than it ever has been.
The basis of this is a tremendous unbeaten run that saw them miss out on a play-off spot by the narrowest of margins last season, and with the majority of the squad signed up and raring to go, Peter Duffield’s men will be hoping to get off to a winning start when Coalville Town arrive at Christchurch Meadow for the opening fixture.
If the results from the pre-season fixtures are anything to go by, and many pundits will say they’re not, then the Nailers are already in the winning groove.
Despite losing their first game at home to a strong North Ferriby side tipped to do very well this season, the Nailers did more than enough to secure at least a draw on the back of an impressive first half performance, and were slightly unlucky to concede the only goal of the game in the second half.
A Jon Froggatt brace saw the Nailers home to victory against a capable Parkgate team, while Jordan Turner and Dan White scored the goals that gave Belper a win over Holbrook Sports in a possible rehearsal for an FA Cup preliminary round tie.
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A Colin Marrison penalty was enough to give the Nailers victory against a well organised Maltby Miners Welfare team that former Belper manager Andy Carney is involved with. However last Saturday brought their most emphatic victory to date when they hit four goals without reply.
Mark Ward, Simon Harrison and an own goal did most of the damage for a rampant Nailers outfit against South Normanton Athletic, but the best goal came from Ashley Hunter, who hit a great shot to round of an impressive display.
Manager Peter Duffield is happy with the way his pre-season preparations have been progressing, but the one aspect that concerns him is the number of missed chances.
“We are definitely going in the right direction,” he said, “our fitness is very good and the attitude is spot on, and my only slight concern is, if I’m honest, is that we should have scored far more goals in the process.”
“We missed some very good chances in all of the games, including the one against North Ferriby, and when things get really serious a week on Saturday we certainly can’t afford to let teams off the hook like we have been doing.”
Duffield does not rule out some late additions to his squad as the new season edges ever closer but he remains content with the players he has at his disposal.
“Every manager will want a couple of extra players if they are going to improve his squad and his budget allows, and while I won’t rule out any additions I’m not close to making any further signings at the moment.”
“I have a strong nucleus of players that is capable of performing in what will be a very strong league this year and it will be interesting to assess our performance against Stocksbridge next Saturday and judge how far we have progressed.”
“We have a couple of niggling injury worries that we’re working on to get right for next week, and everyone is now wanting the season to begin, now that we have done all the hard work.”
Belper’s final pre-season fixture is on Saturday 11th August v Stocksbridge Park Steels (h).