Easter hunt for Grant Black as Ossett United and Sheffield FC await Belper Town

Two tough tasks await Belper Town over the Easter weekend, says manager Grant Black.

The visit of Ossett United on Saturday and then the trip to Sheffield FC on Monday will give the Nailers a chance to test themselves against two teams in the play-offs.

Having ran both opponents close in the reverse fixtures, Black knows his team are on the cusp of making a consistent charge for the top five next campaign.

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He has already identified the key areas he would like to strengthen over the summer months, opting for quality over quantity as he seeks to lead that charge.

Belper Town manager Grant BlackBelper Town manager Grant Black
Belper Town manager Grant Black

And, while his side can still have a say in the play-off order this season, Black said it will help him gauge an opinion on his side’s capabilities.

“These two teams are probably going to end up in the play-offs and are where we have got to be at,” Black told the Belper News this week.

“We’ve played both of them already this season.

“We had 10 men against Sheffield for 60 minutes and they scored in the 94th-minute to nick a draw.

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“We were 3-1 up against Ossett and it was a goalkeeper error which cost us in the last minute there.

“We’ve proved where we’re at this season - we know we need to tighten up on a few little bits.

“That extra bit of quality will take us to the next level.”

And added: “It’ll be two tough games and give us an idea as to whether we can compete, if one of them don’t go up, for next season.”

Belper go into the Easter programme on the back of two away wins so far this month, following a 2-1 victory at Stamford on Saturday.

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A late salvo from substitute Nathan Curtis sealed the comeback for Belper after Alex Peterson cancelled out Joe Burgess’ opener.

“We know Stamford are a really good team,” said Black.

“On paper, they’re in a false position. I fancied them to be in the play-offs at the start of the season.

“We know they like to have a lot of possession at their place and we looked to soak that up and hit them on the break.

“I think we did that in the first half but we conceded a really sloppy goal just before half-time.

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“We went in at the break and said apart from that we had stuck to what we wanted to do and if we do the same in the second half then we’ll get chances.

“The had a penalty which would have killed the game but our keeper has done well to keep it out, which gave us the impetus to carry on.

“Alex scored a good header and Nathan’s smashed one on the half-volley into the top corner.

“The lads who were on the bench this week reacted in the right way - and we’ve had that all season.

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“Nathan Curtis is one of those who we can rely on whether he is starting or coming off the bench.”

Black, who went close to guiding Ossett Town to the Evo-Stik NPL Premier in 2017, will welcome some familiar faces when Ossett United, formed out of Ossett Town and Ossett Albion, visit Derbyshire on Saturday.

“There’s probably two or three still up there from my time and I know a lot of the players from over the years,” he said.

“Similar to Stamford, on paper, that team would do well in the league above.

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“We know they’re a good side and we’ll have to be at it - and some - to get a result on Saturday. That is what we’ll be trying to do.

“We want to make it as fair a play-off race for every team and if we can take something from Ossett then it will be well-deserved because they are a very good team.”