Alfreton Town’s survival plight worsened on Saturday with a home defeat against fellow strugglers Aldershot Town, going down by the odd goal in five at the lmpact Arena.
Once again basic defensive errors were the root cause as the Reds conceded their seventh double of the season, unable to capitalise on a superb start which had seen John Johnston give them a fourth minute lead.
Niall Heaton’s clumsy 37th minute challenge on Ryan Jarvis saw the left-back dismissed for preventing a goalscoring opportunity and a penalty awarded to Aldershot, with Sam Hatton rifling home the equaliser from the spot.
Brett Williams put the visitors ahead in the 40th minute, then their third goal five minutes after the break was the result of a woeful misunderstanding between Reds’ keeper Jason Mooney and new defender Aaron Bentley, who left a routine clearance to each other and could only watch as Hatton slid the ball home from a tight angle.
Four minutes after that Karl Hawley weighed in with an angled drive to reduce the arrears from an opportunity he fashioned himself just inside the area, and at least for the last eight minutes of the game it was ten against ten after Josh Scott had been sent off for lashing out at Hawley.
Jordan Keane, Tom Shaw and Lee Stevenson made way for Bentley, Anthony Howell and Joe lronside as manager Nicky Law made three changes from the Braintree defeat, the formation reverting to 4-4-2 for the first time since Christmas.
Aldershot had already made their intentions known with Jordan Roberts’ wayward shot and Andre McCollin forcing a superb save from Mooney in the opening three minutes, but Johnston latched on to the loose ball from the latter attempt and sprinted the length of the heavy pitch to force a corner.
It was taken short and eventually reached Johnston on the edge of the area via lronside’s downward header, his volley floating into the far corner of the net to give the Reds a vital advantage.
Three minutes later Ironside’s drive was held low by keeper Phil Smith, but a deluge of corners rained in on the Alfreton defence before Matt Saunders scuffed wide from 18 yards.
Saunders then had to head behind as Hawley’s by-line cross momentarily eased the pressure, but Mooney needed to produce a reflex save to deny McCollin with 32 minutes on the clock.
McCollin then raced clear to stretch the Reds’ rearguard once again, but his decision to shoot from a diminishing angle was poor with Roberts in support.
However two minutes later a Roberts through-ball led to the equaliser and Heaton’s dismissal with the injured Jarvis replaced by Williams before the re-start, the substitute’s first touch firing the Shots into a 2-1 lead after Sean McGinty had sent him clear.
Having racked up a massive tally of ten corners to emphasise their first half domination Aldershot almost conceded a quick equaliser when Smith needed to make a fantastic close range block from Hawley’s powerful header, after Luke Graham had nodded down a Bradley Wood free-kick in the 42nd minute.
After Hatton and Hawley had scored their goals Alfreton were left with 36 minutes to try and conjure up an equaliser, but despite their best efforts no further goals ensued, although a ghastly error by Mooney on 66 minutes could have made matters worse.
Having successfully punched clear at least three first half corners at his near post the keeper elected to punch again in a more central position from Roberts’ latest flag-kick, the ball looping back over his head before being hacked off the line by a vigilant Lathaniel Rowe-Turner.
Fresh legs were brought on in a rare triple substitution with 19 minutes remaining that saw Andi Thanoj, Tom Shaw and Joe Leesley replace Johnston, Howell and Dan Bradley.
A timely tackle back by Graham prevented Williams from scoring after he had ghosted past Bentley in the 75th minute, then Alfreton were denied the life-line of a penalty when Leesley appeared to be brought down by Jaydon Gibbs.
Scott was sent off for the visitors in the 82nd minute for violent conduct, Shaw had an overhead kick saved by Smith after Wood had pulled back a Leesley corner and Ironside almost scored with a back post header from a deep Mooney free-kick as the final minutes ebbed away.
The stark reality of the defeat, coupled with the difficulty of at least half of the remaining Vanarama Conference fixtures, quite clearly demanded maximum points from Tuesday night’s game at home to Dartford and Saturday’s trip to bottom club AFC Telford United, a ground where the Reds have mustered just one goal in their previous nine visits.
ALFRETON: Mooney; Graham, Bentley, Rowe-Turner, Heaton, Johnston (Leesley 71), Bradley (Thanoj 71), Wood, Howell (Shaw 71), Ironside, Hawley.
Subs not used: L. Stevenson, Lenighan.