As part of the "Respect" campaign, teams exchange formal handshakes before the game. Picture as ever, courtesy of Tim Harrison - the rest of his shots from the game are here:-
On a damp, grey evening, an "experimental" Belper side almost snatched a win! It was a real battle and particularly in the first half, Belper played some very attractive and incisive football but the Willenhall defence withstood most of the onslaught.
Having held a 1 - 0 lead after 5 minutes, Belper looked like going out of the tie at 1 - 2 down but the equaliser came in the 92nd minute and that meant extra time.
The score pattern in extra time went:- 3 - 2; 3 - 3; 4 - 3; 4 - 4, with Willenhall equalising in just about the last minute of extra time. So that meant a penalty shoot out!
We left just before the end (the match at 4-4 with about two minutes left) because it was getting on for quarter past ten and it's an hour's drive back to Sheffield!
On the way home, we learned that Belper had lost 3 - 2 on pens. Pity but I enjoyed the game - and the team selection suggested to me that the squad depth which we will need over the next very hectic 2 months is certainly there.
My man of the match choice would be between Andy Rushbury, who covered every blade of grass and never stopped working, or Richard Haigh, at centre half and up against a striker who was a good 6 inches taller but Rich won just about every battle with the giant striker.
The "kids" did well too. Aaron Pride we already knew about - a classy full back who is "streetwise" (you know what I mean!) beyond his tender years and Liam Wilkins - earned his goal and seems to have pace to burn! Looking forward to seeing more of both of them as they are (hopefully) nurtured and brought along correctly.
Although we lost - a good night generally and there were, as already said, positives to take from the game.
Back to league action on Saturday - away at Lincoln Utd. That is another tough test but confidence must be sky high just now. Come on You Nailers!