By Chris Sweetman
NEWCASTLE Town slipped out of the FA Trophy, as they lost 2-0 to Belper Town at a sweltering Christchurch Meadows.
Having been knocked out of the FA Cup by Rugby Town, Castle were looking to the FA Trophy for a cup run this season.
However, they struggled to create chances, despite a positive attacking start to the game.
Instead, it was Belper who took an early lead, as Revarnelle James played a ball in from outwide, that just snuck inside the far post, with Newcastle keeper Joe Slinn wrongfooted.
Instead, in the scorching, and unseasonal, Derbyshire autumn heat Newcastle began to struggle to match Belper’s pace.
Cameron Johnson was the one to take advantage, latching onto a defence splitting pass by Kevin Bastos to double the advantage.
The second half saw the hosts control the game to defend their lead, as Newcastle struggled to manufacture any real scoring opportunities.
Instead, James and substitute James Cadman both came close to adding to Belper’s advantage, and though they were not taken, it made no difference to the final result.
Newcastle began the game positively, putting Belper under pressure early on, but just lacking that accuracy on the final pass to forge a scoring opportunity.
Belper did not have that problem, as within ten minutes Johnson had two decent chances – the first saved by Slinn, the second he volleyed wide.
But the home fans did not have long to wait for their first goal, as minutes later patient build up on their left wing saw James fire the ball into the box.
It wasn’t clear initially if he was crossing or shooting, but regardless the ball flew over Slinn’s head to nestle into the top corner.
The goal was perhaps harsh on Newcastle, and for much of the first half was the only real difference between the teams, as both sides played out a very even game.
Newcastle’s best chance of the period saw Joe Berks break, and his ball into the box just needed a touch, but it came from a Belper foot as the hosts cleared.
The heat necessitated a water break in both halves, and after the one in the first half Belper began to take control, as Newcastle tired in the heat.
Bastos forced Slinn into a save, before Danny South headed wide from a corner.
Moments later, another Belper corner was cleared by Newcastle, only for the ball to be returned to home centre forward Alex Troke, who teed up South, but the centre back blazed his shot over the bar.
Bastos should have doubled the lead with five minutes of the half left, as he broke through the Newcastle defence to get one-on-one with Slinn, but an excellent tackle by Kyle Stubbs denied him.
Newcastle, who were looking tired and ragged in the heat, seemed content to see out the half and take the one goal deficit, but Belper had other ideas.
Bastos’ through ball split the visitors’ defence, and Johnson raced onto the ball, keeping his composure to slot past Slinn and double the hosts’ advantage.
James almost made it three for Belper with the last play of the half, but this time Newcastle were able to scramble and crowd him out.
The second half saw Newcastle come out determined to get back into the game, as the surged out the blocks.
Debutant Dan Cockerline was set free by Louis Lake, but could not find space to shoot as Belper got back to crowd him off the ball.
However, Newcastle’s hold on the half was not secure, as a Belper saw Slinn forced to save Troke’s flick on.
However, despite that early chance, Belper were content to sit on their lead for much of the first 20 minutes of the half, just keeping Newcastle at arm’s length.
That almost backfired just past the hour mark, as Cockerline was played in and should have scored, but like with Bastos and Stubbs in the first half, an excellent tackle by South denied him.
That scare seemed to force a slightly more attacking mindset from Belper, and they should have had their third moments later.
Bastos intercepted a pass and surged into the Newcastle box, but rather than cut back to the unmarked Johnson in the centre, shot himself on the angle, which Slinn saved.
Newcastle were trying to get themselves back into the game, but could not find a way through the Belper midfield and defence.
For their part, the hosts had resumed their holding pattern, happy to contain their visitors, who had managed just one shot on target – Lewis Holdham firing at keeper Jonathan Hedge.
As the clock ticked past 90 minutes, despite a late flurry of Newcastle pressure, it was Belper who came closest to adding to the score.
Substitute Cadman broke past a tired Newcastle defence, but despite having time and space, could only fire wide, before Slinn had to sprint out of his area to deny James a second.
A disappointing result for Newcastle, who are now out of both the FA Cup and FA Trophy early in the season.
The focus for manager Paul Moore and his players will now switch to the Northern Premier League – West Division, and the trip to Widnes next Saturday.