Morris off the mark but Belper can't hold out as Uni teach them a lesson
A FIRST goal of the season for Nick Morris and a deserved Conference North point for Belper against Durham has set them up nicely for this weekend's league and cup double-header.
Morris' fourth-minute strike is ample reward for a string of fine performances for Duncan Woods' side this season.
And the England Masters international is keen to keep his place for Saturday's trip to Bowden in the league and Sunday's visit to Premier League side Hampstead and Westminster for the EH Cup.
"It's great to get on the scoresheet at last after a few games without a goal," said Morris.
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"I'm disappointed we didn't sneak all the points considering the chances we generated. But it is a boost for the two important games that we have coming up this weekend."
Durham put the Nailers under the cosh straight from push-back but James Blackwell countered their first attack well as Belper looked to take an early lead.
The midfield trio of Richard Kitchen, Steve Batten and David Ebbage excelled themselves in the centre of the pitch and it was Ebbage who set up Ben Walton for Belper's first shot at goal, which was saved by the Durham keeper.
The Nailers didn't have to wait long, though, for the opening goal, which came after some excellent interchange play between Ben Inshaw and Batten, who won a free hit just inside the attacking 25-yard line.
From this dead ball, Mark Lamb was able to move the ball without any pressure before delivering it into the Durham circle.
Morris timed his run into the area to perfection and he expertly swept the ball past the visiting keeper to put Belper 1-0 up.
Only a few minutes later, Rich Cassidy forced the Durham keeper to make another save as the Nailers looked to stamp their authority on the game.
They were playing their best hockey of the season and created several chances but Durham gradually grew in stature and began to push forward.
The visitors created a number of chances but finally made a breakthrough from the game's first penalty corner in the 29th minute, converted by Matthew Murphy despite the best efforts of Belper keeper Neill Slane.
The remainder of the half passed with Durham creating another chance but the danger was averted and the sides went into the break on level terms.
Belper, looking to reassert themselves for the second half, found the going tough as Durham dominated possession.
They put the back four under more pressure and it was they who took the plaudits as the game wore on.
Belper did manage to get a foothold in the game as the half wore on, with Blackwell having a late flick from a penalty corner pushed away by the Durham keeper.
"I was pleased with how we approached the game," said Woods, "and, if we can build on that, I'm sure we can add to our points tally."