Alfreton Town suffered a heavy setback at Lincoln City on Tuesday night as their sixth game inside 18 days took its toll, but the nature of the defeat left much to be desired with three of the goals coming from long throws.
It was the Reds’ first loss at Sincil Bank in four visits since promotion to the Conference Premier, but they still retain third spot with more games played than any of their nearest challengers.
Twice in the opening stages Mitch Austin caused problems by cutting into the area and delivering sharp crosses, the first of which was blocked by Nick Fenton and the second leading to a long Tom Miller throw and the opening goal in the eighth minute.
It was Austin who latched on to the delivery to produce an angled drive that Darran Kempson could only slice into his own net, then as Lincoln gathered momentum Jon Worsnop had to tip over a smart header from Johan Dixon.
A snap shot by Job Ayo Akinde in the 18th minute was saved well by Imps’ keeper Paul Farman, but three minutes later Lincoln struck again to lead 2-0 from another Miller throw that fell nicely for Nick Wright to hook past Worsnop from 12 yards.
Godfrey Poku played Akinde to the by-line but the angle was too tight to generate enough power to test Farman, then Akinde had to settle for a corner when Worsnop’s massive clearance fell to the striker between Farman and defender Todd Jordan.
Tom Shaw fired over from the edge of the area on 31 minutes, then Kempson intercepted when Jon Nolan tried to chip the ball over Worsnop from a Wright cross before Delano Sam-Yorke’s downward header cleared the crossbar from a right-wing corner.
Six minutes before the break Worsnop parried from Nolan before Chris Westwood blocked Sam-Yorke’s follow-up, then in first half added time Bradley Wood’s shot from 20 yards was parried by Farman and the ball would just not sit up for the supporting Paul Clayton.
The Reds came out after the interval in a determined mood and Clayton fired into the side-netting from a Westwood cross, whilst Akinde pulled the ball back from the by-line after a strong run with no recipients on hand to convert.
Ten minutes into the second half Alfreton deservedly reduced the deficit when Fenton headed home a Shaw corner that Clayton had won, then Shaw’s low drive was held by Farman after more good work by Clayton.
There was a farcical break in play on the hour when a Stewards’ Enquiry was called after a yellow-coated crowd controller kicked the ball away as Westwood went to take a throw-in - a verbal altercation ensued and the referee then marched over to the fourth official, who subsequently informed the Lincoln hierarchy.
There was a distinct lull in the proceedings for a while after that and it was the 75th minute before Akinde almost managed to turn in a Kempson through-ball, but Jordan was on hand to block.
Then a Kempson shot from a Josh Law corner was blocked by Nat Brown before Lincoln extended their lead to 3-1 in the 80th minute, Nolan firing home from the edge of the area after a swift break upfield.
Alfreton were undone yet again by a long throw three minutes from the end, this time taken by Dan Gray, which left Sam-Yorke completely unmarked to head past Worsnop from close range.
Far too late two efforts from sub Daniel Meadows in added time attempted to appease the situation, the first drifting wide from the edge of the area and the latter producing a brilliant stop by Farman after being teed up by Danny Wishart.
Alfreton: Worsnop; Westwood, Fenton, Kempson, Rowe-Turner, Shaw (Law 69), Wood (Meadows 77), Bradley (Wishart 85), Poku, Akinde, Clayton.
Attendance: 1,877 (131).