Belper Town began their pre-season fixtures with a home game against a Derby County U21 side and gave a gutsy performance that earned them a deserved draw in front of 700 fans.
This display was all the more impressive taking into account the fact that they’s only started pre-season training 10 days earlier and the Rams had brought the equivalent of two teams containing a number of trialists.
An even start saw both sides moving the ball around well and it was the Nailers who almost struck first in the 6th minute when Scot Mathews nearly caught out Rams’ keeper Jonathan Mitchell with a shot just inside the near post but the Derby ‘keeper just managed to claw it away.
Alefe Santos was looking lively in the early stages and should have done better with a cross on 9 minutes when he had plenty of time to use the ball more effectively.
The Nailers’ positive start was rewarded in the 13th when Paul Lister turned unmarked in the penalty and sent a low shot past the ‘keeper, and it could have been two a minute later when Nabil Sharif was played in by Ryan Grant but the Belper striker fired his shot wide from the edge of the area.
The Rams stepped up the pace in the middle section of the half however despite some good close man to man passing from the visitors, Dan Haystead in the Belper goal had little to do up to the 25 minute mark.
Phil Watt was in the way of a well struck goal bound effort from Alban Bunjako in the 27th minute and moments later Callum Guy hit a dipping free kick just over the bar.
The Rams did get the ball in the net in the 38th minute but Shequille Mc Donald’s close range effort was ruled offside.
Derby increased the pressure on the Nailers in the latter stages of the half but still the visitor’s close inter-passing on the edge of the area had yet to pay dividends.
Dan Haystead blocked a fiercely struck shot from McDonald on 43 minutes and the Nailers’ lead remained intact at the break..
Belper made a great start to the second period by extending their lead in the 48th minute when Phil Watt met a corner kick barely a yard out and planted the ball firmly into the net.
The Rams quickly reduced the arrears two minutes later when Caspar struck a fine effort from well outside the area to beat Haystead at his far post.
Ryan Grant surprised everyone with a snap shot volley on 55 minutes that flew just over the bar from 22 yards and soon afterwards Evan Garnet nearly capitalised on an error by Matt Morch who got himself into all sorts of trouble when coming for the ball, and Garnet’s shot was deflected the wrong side of the post.
Garnettt showed good pace in the 68th minute when he sped away from the Rams’ defence but even though he struck his shot firmly, Morch got the block in.
Rob Stevenson was unlucky with a controlled volley following a 72 minute free kick that flew just over the cross bar, and the Nailers were indebted to some excellent ‘keeping in a two minute spell in which he made three superb saves in quick succession.
He then played his part in denying Offrande Zanzala who looked certain to score as he raced away.
The Rams had effectively a new team playing in the second half and eventually fitness began to tell and in the 83rd minute Caspar volleyed in his second of the game from 12 yards to level the scores.
The Rams pushed on for a winner but the Nailers held out to record a very respectable draw against a youthful and talented Derby County side.
Belper Town: Haystead, Percicoe, Matthews, Lister, Watt, Towey, Wilson, Sharif, Grant, Garnettt, Williams. Subs all used: Mathews, Newman, Marshall, Lucas, Stevenson.
Referee: Tim Walker (Derby).