Being on holiday for the Extra Preliminary Round of the FA Cup meant I joined the fun at Belper for a Preliminary Round game. This year is the 150th anniversary of the first ever FA Cup game and I am dreaming of a smaller Non League club having a miraculous run this season.
Belper Town’s ground is on the very edge of town near the river Derwent and close to Strutt’s Mill one of the industrial icons that make up the World Heritage listing of the Derwent Valley to mark it’s importance to the birth of the Industrial Revolution.
Not knowing the area I had difficulty parking and a 5 minute walk down hill from where I parked looked like a bad idea when I realised it would be 10 minutes up the steep incline at the end of the match. The rain, grey skies and clammy warm weather did not help the mood but WOW what a fantastic ground greeted me. A long covered seating area down one side, cover for standing fans behind one goal and two refreshment bars. The floodlights are state of the art and the pitch was flat with thick very green grass. I asked if I could get a program and was directed to the woman in red on the corner although it turned out it was the woman in black next to the woman in red who was selling them. I was lucky there were only two left and I’m not surprised, 20 glossy, coloured pages packed with info. The program would grace many a National League side.
Belper Town are nicknamed the ‘nailer’ very obviously because nails are manufactured locally. They have played in local and Midlands Leagues and the highest they have reached was the Northern Premier, Premier Division but lasted only one season and returned to the level they currently play at in 2016.
Belper started back in 1883 and reached the first round of the FA Cup in 1887 narrowly losing to ‘The Wednesday’ so their involvement in today’s competition goes back over 130 years.
Whitchurch Alport situated west of Stoke and east of Wrexham play in the Midland Football League Premier Division. This border country club have punched above their weight for some years considering the size of the local population. Formed in 1946 they have played in many local leagues progressing to the North West Counties League and now the Midland League with the recent restructure.
Belper Town F.C 3 Whitchurch Alport 1
Belper started the day as favourites, playing at home and at a higher level of football but it was Whitchurch who scored first in the slippery conditions as the rain became a constant. A corner from the left by Joe Minishall was pounced on by No.6 Alex Hughes who smashed it in the net for a very early lead in the 3rd minute. Whitchurch were close to adding a second but on 7 minutes the Belper No.6 equalised after the Whitchurch defenders failed to clear a cross from the right.
Within a further 3 minutes Belper were now in front when No.6 again (Tom Wilson) scored this time with his head. Whitchurch pressed hard to get back in the game but we’re left with a lot to do when Belper scored their 3rd minutes before half time through Johnathan Margetts.
The second half started with the local church, which backs onto the ground, sounding its bells at 16.00 which also signalled the rain to stop. Belper should have taken this as an omen and put the match out of Whitchurch’s reach when awarded a penalty on 53 minutes. Margetts gamely stroked the ball to Mason Springthorpes left and he comfortably saved.
Whitchurch didn’t give up and pressed hard but never looked like overcoming a robust Belper defence.
Belper’s good win has been rewarded with an away tie in the next round to local rivals Matlock which is just 10 miles away, a true Derwent Valley derby.
Not only did I enjoy the football and the facilities but the chips were fantastic,hot, tasty, golden, firm, no fatty after taste and a score of 85. Best this season so far.