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Match Reports

Notts 2-1 Belper

We're made to work but progress in cup

19 October 2019

Goals from Enzio Boldewijn and Kyle Wootton saw us come from behind to overcome a stubborn Belper Town and progress to the Emirates FA Cup first round proper.

We fell behind 11 minutes into proceedings courtesy of an excellent strike from Danny Gordon and found the visitors difficult to break down until the Dutch winger curled home shortly before the half-hour.

The Nailers were resilient in defence, but Wootton found a way through 14 minutes from time to book our place in Monday's draw. 

Neal Ardley selected a strong team, which showed three changes from the side that beat Torquay last week in our fourth consecutive home win. 

Dion Kelly-Evans and Regan Booty came in from the start after being introduced as substitutes seven days ago, while Damien McCrory made his return from injury on the left side of defence.

Richard Brindley, Mitch Rose and Zoumana Bakayogo were the men to make way, taking up places on a seven-man bench. 

Both sides exchanged half-chances in the opening moments before we rattled the frame of the goal on 10 minutes.

Kristian Dennis' floated pass picked out Kelly-Evans and he controlled well before laying off for Wootton on the edge of the area. The striker looked to place his shot into the top corner, and had goalkeeper Ryan Musslewhite beaten, but saw his effort cannon back off the crossbar. 

Almost instantly, Belper took a surprise lead. A low cross from the left was diverted clear, but only as far as Gordon who unleashed an unstoppable drive from 25 yards, which nestled in the top corner of Sam Slocombe's goal. 

From there, the Nailers dropped deep and challenged us to break them down - something it looked like we had done on 23 minutes, when Dennis netted the rebound after Regan Booty's shot was blocked, but the flag was raised against the striker. 

We were seeing plenty of the ball and began to move it around with more intensity, with Booty, Wootton and Dennis combining well before the latter bent an effort off the outside of the post shortly before the half-hour.

And, within a minute, parity was restored as we found the equaliser that had been coming. Boldewijn did as he so often does in a black and white shirt - front his man up before working space with neat footwork to curl a shot across goal, and Musslewhite could do nothing to stop the left-footed strike nestling in his bottom corner. 

Now that we were back on terms, we were looking to turn the game on its head before the break, and Wootton went close with a shot on the turn after holding his man off well to receive the ball from Booty just after the half-hour mark.

With the interval looming, it seemed only a matter of time until we'd take the lead and Ben Turner wanted a penalty when he went down in the area as he attempted to meet Sean Shields' corner. Nothing doing said referee Martin Woods, who had earlier irked the Meadow Lane faithful after only showing a yellow card to Derry Robson following a strong challenge on Michael Doyle in the centre of the park.

Moments later, Dennis was denied by Musslewhite at point-blank range after he latched onto a knock-down from Wootton following a right wing cross - the keeper made himself big and diverted clear.

Shields was next to try his luck, seeing an effort blocked by Riece Bertram 10 yards from goal. The majority of Meadow Lane was appealing for handball, but Woods dismissed any shouts for a penalty.

Two minutes of added time were indicated, in which Wootton headed over after meeting a cross from the right, before the sides returned to their dressing rooms, with Belper's 1,718 travelling fans delighted with the account they'd given of themselves.

Our fans were more expectant, though, and, attacking the Air-IT Kop following the restart, we were quickly onto the front foot, with Shields winning a free-kick 25 yards from goal. Booty took it but could only find the wall.

He went closer on 50 minutes, however, plucking the ball out of the air just outside the box before dancing past a challenge and shooting low - his effort just beat the post, with Musslewhite stranded.

Belper grew back into the game, though, and our defence had to be alert to cope with some dangerous crosses - one of which broke kindly for Nathan Curtis, but he blazed high and wide from the edge of the area.

Much like they had when they took the lead, the Nailers began to sit back and challenge us to find a route through, with Shields looking the most likely to make something happen, and from his corner on the hour we were cursing the run of the ball as it ricocheted around the area, but didn't drop for anyone in black and white. 

From another set piece we had the ball in the net again, only to be left frustrated by the officials. Shields delivered again and Turner rose highest at the back post to nod towards goal, where Wootton applied the headed finish but celebrations were cut short as he was penalised for a foul on Musslewhite. 

The keeper was in the thick of things once again on 70 minutes, making a fantastic double save to keep Dennis out. The striker met Shields' deep cross with a stooping header, which was turned away, and saw the Belper stopper make an even better intervention to keep out the rebound.

The Ebbsfleet loanee had the beating of Nailers right back Kyle Bryant, and we were using him in almost every attack, but his deliveries weren't leading to the goal we craved.

He was hugging the touchline and stretching the play, though, so when the ball was sent out to him in the 76th minute and he played it first-time back inside to Booty, the central midfielder had acres of space. He made the most of it, threading a delightful through ball for Wootton to fasten onto and he applied the composed finish to put us ahead. 

Moments later, Dennis' curling effort had Musslewhite concerned, but the keeper was able to hold on to stop us quickly doubling the advantage. 

The striker went close again with 82 on the clock as he met Booty's driven low cross, but could only turn over from inside the six-yard box.

That proved to be his last action as he made way for Wes Thomas, and Shields also left the field with Nathan Tyson on in his place for his first appearance since August. 

The former Forest striker was quickly involved as he charged down the left wing before crossing. Belper cleared the immediate danger but pressure from Doyle saw the ball break for Wootton in the box, but his shot was blocked. 

The visitors poured men forwards in the dying stages, and bodies were put on the line to keep them out during a spell of sustained pressure that ended with a weak shot from Curtis going straight at Slocombe.

They left themselves susceptible to the counter-attack, though, and we should've been 3-1 up when Boldewijn's surging run gave him the chance to pick Thomas out with a cross. His header back across goal narrowly missed the target, however.

A long throw in the fifth minute of added time saw Musslewhite take up a position in our area, and McCrory made an incredible block to keep Belper out, and that was the last action before the referee called time on an exciting affair. 


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