Walton is hat-trick hero as Belper end first half of season on a high
COACH Duncan Woods is predicting a happy 2013 for Belper after they ended the first half of the Conference North season with a big win against Preston.
A hat-trick from leading goalscorer Ben Walton helped the Nailers beat bottom-of-the-table Preston 6-2.
And Woods, who took over from Mark Lamb at the start of the season, is optimistic about the second-half of the campaign.
"It wasn't our best performance against Preston," he said.
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"However, we've been steadily improving as a hockey side and the last three weeks have shown that we are more than capable of competing at the top of this league.
"We just need to stick to our game plan and play as a team."
It took less then 60 seconds for Belper to break the deadlock.
Immediately from push-back, James Blackwell was able to carry the ball forward without too much trouble and picked out Rich Cassidy, who evaded his marker before flicking the ball past the onrushing Preston goalkeeper.
Ben Walton collected the ball and finished neatly for the Nailers' first of the day.
Delighted with their start, Belper looked to impose themselves on the game – and this is exactly what they did.
Their passing and movement complimented the good decision making that has been worked on in training to display some of the best hockey the Derbyshire side have played this season.
Despite this, the home side didn't have it all their own way and equalised when prolific midfielder Adam Wilson set up David Greenough for the visitors' equaliser.
The game became scrappy before Cassidy restored Belper's lead in the 23rd minute and gave them a two-goal cushion shortly afterwards.
A remarkable six minutes followed where the Nailers played some great hockey and were rewarded with two further goals from Walton to help him complete his hat-trick.
The first arrived in the 27th minute as Walton was able to turn and shoot past the Preston keeper from 10 yards. A short corner rebound in the 31st minute then allowed Belper's leading scorer to secure his hat-trick and give his side a 5-1 advantage at half- time.
Preston came out for the second half determined that there would be no repeat of their disastrous opening half, packing out the defence and making things difficult for the Nailers.
They did come unstuck, though, when they failed to clear a Belper penalty corner.
A flicked effort was well saved by the goalkeeper but a re-award was given after the rebound hit a defender on the foot. The routine wasn't as slick as it could have been but Blackwell did enough to force the ball over the line.
Preston pulled a goal back in the 52nd minute but Belper already had the points safely in the bag.
Walton said: "It was great to get three goals and stamp our authority on the game early doors."