Belpher Town 1-0 Morpeth Town
Morpeth Town opened their Evo-Stik East League campaign with a disappointing 1-0 defeat at the hands of Belper Town. Nathan Curtis grabbed the only goal of the game as the Nailers opened their account.
The first clear sight of goal fell the way of Belper, the ball was worked to Marcus Day in the centre of the pitch and the midfielder looked up but could only send an effort into the arms of Dan Lowson.
Morpeth hit back through Joe Walton. The winger raced clear of Tyler Jahol and into the penalty area before hitting an effort from the angle that was parried behind by Max Beardmore.
As Morpeth looked to stamp their authority on the game, they ultimately conceded from their own attacking set-piece. Piteu Crouz brought the ball down, despite vociferous appeals from players and fans alike for handball. Play was allowed to go on and Crouz advanced, before slipping the ball across goal for Curtis to tap into an empty net.
Rather than let their heads drop, the Highwaymen responded; Ben Sayer let fly from 25yards with an effort that was destined to test Beardmore before it was blocked by Danny South.
From a foul on Chris Reid, Sayer curled in a delightful ball that was begging for a touch at the far post but it evaded everyone, leaving players holding their heads after realising how close they had come to grabbing the equaliser.
On the half-hour mark, Sayer who was pulling the strings from set-pieces, saw another free-kick parried away by Beardmore.
The Highwaymen continued to press and Reid was unlucky to see a goalbound effort blocked on the line by a desperate block from South.
Just before the interval, the most gilt-edged chance arrived. A cross-field ball found Adam Burnicle and the diminutive forward in turn played it to Liam Henderson but he was denied by an instinctive save by Beardmore.
The hosts did almost get a second on the break but Lowson was equal to the effort as he palmed a dangerous free-kick over the bar.
The Nailers came out for the second half and were close to doubling their lead on 54 minutes. A corner was played into the box and South met the ball but only directed his header into the arms of Lowson.
Morpeth were handed the initiative on 70 minutes when Jake Sturgess was shown a straight red by referee Reubyn Ricardo for giving Liam Henderson a forearm in the face. The defender protested long and hard but there was no altering the decision and the Highwaymen had 20 minutes to force an equaliser.
Tom Potter came on for his Morpeth debut, adding a fresh impetus to the attack, and the young winger was unlucky to see his effort blocked.
As time ran down, Julian Petrache was close to bringing the scores level but his powerful header from a Sayer corner crept past the near post with Beardmore beaten.
Morpeth continued to press and Sayer tried his luck with a speculative free-kick from close to halfway that forced Beardmore into a fine save, tipping the ball over the bar.
The hosts, who had had their backs to the wall for long periods of the game, almost sealed the points in added time. Luke Chambers was found on the edge of the area and the substitute angled his strike past the far post.
There was to be one final opportunity for Morpeth. Another corner was swung into the danger area with Reid and Jeff Henderson seeing efforts blocked before the ball ended up in the side netting.