Alfreton Town progressed to the Third Qualifying Round of the F.A.Cup through Tom Allan’s ninth minute goal and a great deal of nail-biting, as AFC Fylde pressed relentlessly during the course of Saturday’s home tie.
Their opponents from the Blackpool area had triumphed 5-3 at the lmpact Arena just four weeks earlier and the National League North leaders are unbeaten in their ten games to date, so to say that the Reds were underdogs going into the game was a bit of an understatement.
However in true F.A.Cup tradition it was the unfancied side that pocketed the £4500 prize money, but there was an awful lot of defending to do once the lead had been established, Allan volleying home after Ryan Wilson’s corner had been flicked to the back post by Adam Priestley.
The star of the show was undoubtedly Fabian Spiess, who pulled off some remarkable saves, especially a stinging free-kick from Danny Rowe in the 89th minute that would have beaten most goalkeepers.
Rowe had single-handedly demolished Alfreton in August with four goals, but was kept largely in check this time around as the Reds’ defence held firm, debutant loanee Kallam Mantack slotting in admirably at right-back, which will undoubtedly have pleased his Oldham Athletic employers.
Nicky Law could only name two substitutes from a permissible seven with injuries, illness and unavailability massively reducing his options, so for much of the game Priestley was the lone attacker and put in a tiring shift, but every one of the players deserved praise for their determination.
James Hardy missed a relatively simple header for Fylde two minutes before Allan’s goal, then Bohan Dixon blaxed over from 16 yards and Rowe fired wide from a similar distance as the visitors sought an equaliser.
An inviting cross from Todd Jordan saw Allan head over for the Reds on 29 minutes, but play soon reverted to the other end with Hardy’s angled drive brushing the back post, Spiess then fielding from Rowe before saving well from the same player’s header.
There was a major let-off for Alfreton 11 minutes before half-time, Spiess clattered into by his central defender Terry Kennedy as he attempted to catch a Rowe header, but somehow the keeper reacted to drop on to the loose ball right on the line.
A crazy goalmouth scramble five minutes later, triggered by Dixon’s cross, saw Rowe and Andy Bond both stab at the ball as it bobbled around before Kennedy hacked clear.
It was Fylde keeper Tony Thompson who prevented Priestley from scoring in the 53rd minute from Allan’s cross, then Spiess was in action again thwarting Hardy before Niall Heaton cleared off the line from Dixon with the Reds’ keeper beaten for once.
Mantack forced Thompson into a 64th minute save, then Priestley went close after cutting in from the left, Spiess in the thick of things again with a superb double save to deny Rowe with ten minutes remaining.
A nerve-wracking final period saw Fylde pushing and pushing, but the Reds were magnificent in their task and even managed to forage forward at one point with Craig Westcarr firing over from a Wilson through-ball.
The outstanding iconic moment of the tie though was that save by Spiess that defied both logic and gravity as Rowe arrowed the ball towards the top corner of the net.
ALFRETON: Spiess; Mantack, McGowan, Terry Kennedy, Heaton, Allan, Jordan, Wilson, Monkhouse, Westcarr, Priestley. Subs not used: Clayton, Ottley.
FYLDE: Thompson; Holmes (Jennings 73), Tom Kennedy, Langley, Williams, Bond, Hardy, C.Hughes, Rowe, Dixon, M.Hughes (Blinkhorn 60). Subs not used: Baker, Collins, Tasdemir, Newell.
Referee: Glen Hart. Att: 263.