Alfreton Town fans who made the long trek to Welling on Saturday dedicated the Reds’ sixth away win of the season to the club’s founder member, former chairman and secretary Tom McRoy, who had sadly passed away three days earlier at the age of 94.
Every song in their repertoire was tailored to include his name and there was a particularly emotional version of “Winter Wonderland” and a lengthy rendition of “Tom McRoy’s red and white army” as Alfreton consolidated third spot in the Skrill Premier.
Manager Nicky Law gave new signing Shaun Harrad a start and was rewarded by the former Bury and Burton Albion striker netting from the penalty spot, whilst midfielder son Josh and defender Michael Wylde were recalled after injury.
Paul Clayton, Tom Shaw and Nick Fenton all reverted to the bench following the 1-4 defeat at Lincoln City 18 days earlier, the team having been out of action since 7th January due to the postponement of the televised game at home to Tamworth.
Alfreton started positively on a heavy Park View Road pitch, which also houses Ryman League outfit Erith & Belvedere, with Chris Westwood heading over from a second minute Law corner which had been won by Harrad from Westwood’s pass.
Harrad’s ninth minute 25 yarder was held by Welling keeper Lee Butcher, then six minutes later Dan Bradley embarked on a by-line run before Bradley Wood was harshly penalised for pushing.
Alfreton grabbed a 17th minute lead though through Law, whose angled drive from the edge of the six-yard box entered the net off Butcher’s leg following a very neat back-heel from Harrad.
Bradley skipped along the edge of the area before seeing a decent effort held by Butcher on 20 minutes, then John Akinde picked out Harrad with an astute pass only for the striker to miss the angle of crossbar and upright by a fraction.
Godfrey Poku sent Akinde through in the 35th minute before drawing a save from Butcher after riding a hefty tackle from Doug Bergqvist. then as Welling finally posed a threat Darran Kempson headed clear a dangerous ball from Loui Fazakerley.
Moments later Kempson had to tidy up after a Wylde error had allowed Kurtis Guthrie to advance menacingly, then back at the other a Law free-kick led to Bradley going close with a shot across the face of the goal.
Alfreton’s misses were rued two minutes before the break when Bradley’s mistake allowed Ross Lafayette to progress to the by-line before teeing up Guthrie to smash the ball past Jon Worsnop from close range.
Even then there was still an opportunity for the Reds to restore their lead before the interval, but Law’s deflected low drive from a Lathaniel Rowe-Turner cross was held by the keeper, who also had to be alert right at the start of the second half to gather Harrad’s scuffed shot under pressure.
Worsnop needed to clutch Josh Wakefield’s effort from deep right following his 54th minute extended run down the right flank, then two minutes later Lafayette fluffed a golden opportunity for the Wings by slicing wide from ten yards.
That miss was immediately punished in the 57th minute when Conor McLaren needlessly tripped Akinde right on the edge of the area with ball and striker heading away from goal, Harrad marking his promising debut by delivering the spot-kick straight down the middle to beat Butcher.
Harrad tested the keeper again following Clayton’s involvement in the move just four minutes after replacing Akinde, a swap that manager Law had felt necessary after the striker had received grief from the home fans following an unpunished foul and had already received a yellow card in the first half.
Alfreton seemed to be containing Welling comfortably until a threat of a different nature emerged as the weather in south-east London turned to a monsoon, with torrential rain, sleet, lightning and a howling gale contriving to batter the players.
With concentration at a premium Poku did well to clear after Joe Healy had sent Luis Cumbers through to shoot from an angle and Worsnop did well to even spot Harry Cornick’s effort in the gloom, let alone save it.
However right at the end of added time as visibility improved slightly Clayton’s run to the by-line ended with him being blatantly fouled without a further penalty being awarded and Bradley’s deflected shot looped high over the bar for a late corner.
This latest win leaves the Reds just eight points shy of the 60 points total they recorded last season in their best-ever finish with 16 games still to play - Tom McRoy would have been so proud.
ALFRETON: Worsnop; Westwood, Wylde, Kempson, Rowe-Turner, Wood, Poku, Law (Franklin 76), Bradley, J.Akinde (Clayton 65), Harrad.
Subs not used: Shaw, Meadows, Fenton.