Stamford Bels beat Oakham United in a Peterborough League Premier Division derby duel
Stamford Bels extended their unbeaten run to six games after ending Oakham United's five-match winning streak on Saturday.
Second half goals from Dave Atkinson and Will Bird secured victory for Bels after Sven Hart had given Oakham the lead in the opening period of the Peterborough League Premier Division clash.
But it was the performance of home goalkeeper Keenan Murphy that drew plenty of praise from both camps as he produced a string a superb saves to ensure the win for Bels in their first outing for five weeks.
Bels player-boss Lewis Morley said: "As always between the two sides it was a cracking game.
"We hadn't played since December 4 so, after five weeks without a game, we needed everyone to be up for it in a derby.
"There were some huge performances from the likes of Scott Toomey, Dave Atkinson, Mark Mankiwskyj and Josh Edmundson, but the limelight was on Keenan Murphy.
"He was absolutely superb and produced one of the best individual performances I have seen."
Murphy's heroics helped keep Oakham at bay as manager Seb Hayes was left to rue missed chances for his in-form side.
Hayes said: "We didn't take our chances which showed in Bels giving man of the match to their goalkeeper.
"He's made four or five unbelievable saves and has had a brilliant game.
"We did deserve something from the game, but I don't think we deserved to win it.
"A draw would have been a fair reflection on the game because it was an end-to-end match."
Bels had the wind and rain at their backs in the opening half and they started the stronger of the two sides.
Nathan Law turned well and fired in shot which brought a good save from Oakham goalkeeper Jamie Stephens while a scramble from a corner saw Kyle Scott and Law both go close with efforts that were blocked.
Oakham then weathered the early pressure and took the lead when a good move saw Jacob Joyce work the ball out wide to Michael Nelson whose cross was converted by Hart at close range.
The Rutland side continued to grow into the game and it needed three superb saves from Murphy to keep the deficit to just one goal at the interval.
The weather elements had abated after the break, much to Oakham's frustration, although Murphy again excelled in the early exchanges to ensure his side stayed in the contest.
Edmondson went close for the hosts following Bird's back-heel only for Stephens to save well before Bels made two substitutions that helped turn the contest in their favour.
Their first replacement Louie Roberts made an instant impact when brought on with 30 minutes remaining.
He won the ball in his own half, travelled up the pitch, and fed a pass into Law who was brought down in the area and Atkinson stepped up to convert the resultant spot kick.
The Bels goalscorer then went close with a strike from distance that was heading for the top corner only for Stephens to make a great save.
Player-boss Morley came on with 20 minutes remaining and he teed up Bird who fizzed a shot past the post.
The duo then linked up again and this time made it count as Jake Walton's pass found Morley who cut in and fired a cross into the box for Bird to apply a superb flicked finish into the Oakham net.
United pushed for an equaliser but Murphy continued his dominance by making a superb save late on to secure the win for Bels who were boosted by the inclusion of Deeping Rangers regulars Bird and Walton.
Morley added: "When you have the quality of Will Bird to bring in you know when he got his chance he was going to take it and it was also good to see him in orange after all these years."
Bird had played for Holbeach during Oakham boss Hayes' time as Tigers manager and his winning goal inflicted the Rutland side's first defeat since the beginning of November when they lost by one goal to Uppingham Town.
Hayes commented: "On another day, we take our chances and win the game. We didn't do that so fair play to Bels.
"I will give them all the credit in the world because they took their chances at critical points in the game.
"I had no issue with Jake and Will playing for them because, if we had done our job and took our chances, then them playing becomes irrelevant."
Bels host Long Sutton this weekend while Oakham make the trip to face Leverington.