A start that promised so much eventually delivered so little as struggling LINBY COLLIERY WELFARE returned to their losing ways in the Central Midlands League’s South Division.
Gleaning confidence from encouraging draws in their previous two matches, Linby gave high-riding Belper United a real jolt in the opening 25 minutes.
But despite dominating possession and chances, they couldn’t find the crucial breakthrough goal.
And their hearts were broken by a couple of strikes towards the end of the half that fuelled a 2-0 victory for the fifth-placed Derbyshire outfit.
Manager Dave Marlow missed the Belper game, but would have been pleased by his side’s efforts in the opening stages.
Midfielder Aaron Ryan, who was back to his best, hit a superb strike that brought a fantastic save from visiting goalkeeper Adam Jablonski.
Teenage striker Joe Butler’s tenacity almost broke the deadlock when he pressued Jablonski into a mistake, only to fail to convert from a tight angle.
And Ash Winfield should have done better from a corner in the 25th minute when he put a free header wide.
Slowly but surely, Belper began to get a grip on the game, particularly Scott Clapperton and Dan Riley in midfield, and a ten-minute period of pressure and opportunites proved decisive.
Sturdy centre-forward Luke Crosby produced a point-blank save from Rhys Watkinson before striking a post with a drive from 18 yards.
And moments later, youngster Tom Curtis scored a goal worthy of any standard as he picked the ball up on the left-hand side and released a powerful shot into the top corner from 20 yards for his first goal for the club.
At this stage, shellshocked Linby were struggling to cope with wave after wave of Belper attacks -- and three minutes from the break, it was 2-0, courtesy of a tidy finish from Crosby.
The second half was a non-event. Linby’s stand-in boss Jonathan Dakers was happy with the way they restricted the visitors to only one shot of note -- a dipping 25-yard volley from substitute Ollie Shelton that just cleared the bar.
But at the same time, the locals were unable to create any chances of note for themselves. They remain in the bottom five with only two wins in 19 matches.