Hayes and Yeading 3, Alfreton Town 1
Alfreton Town’s big day saw their introduction to the upper echelon of life outside the Football League marred by two penalties being saved, as well as a controversial off-side decision going against them and a string of missed chances to be taken into consideration.
This should have been a routine win against a Hayes and Yeading team that were playing for the first time at their temporary home of Woking FC, with a third of the paltry crowd consisting of Reds’ supporters who had endured the long journey to Surrey with the delights of the M25 car-park thrown in.
Resplendent in thei new away kit of all blue, and sporting squad numbers and names for the first time in the club’s history, Alfreton began on the back foot with Matt McClure flashing a 25 yarder inches wide in the third minute.
Moments later though Matt Wilson managed to find a way round the back of the Hayes defence from a Nathan Arnold free-kick only to drift marginally off-side in the process.
Keeper Dan Lowson held an effort from Pierre Joseph-Dubois under pressure, but he was unable to prevent the hosts taking a ninth minute lead when defensive hesitation was punished by McClure lashing a Louie Soares pass inside his right-hand post from 12 yards.
Joseph-Dubois went close again as Alfreton came to terms with going behind so early, but a Josh Law free-kick settled the nerves with Hayes keeper Steve Arnold forced to punch clear under pressure from Greg Young.
A rash challenge on Anton Brown by Mark Bentley produced the first spot-kick award in the 17th minute, but Paul Clayton’s penalty was saved low to Arnold’s left with a degree of simplicity, but the clearance only reached Young on the half-way line and his instant lob had the home keeper scurrying back to tip over.
A deft Brown header on 26 minutes from close range was held by Arnold after a long throw by Law had been allowed to bounce through the goalmouth, then Connor Franklin directed a shot across the face of the goal from the far edge of the area.
Hayes though went 2-0 up after 30 minutes when Law unfortunately slipped as he tried to cut out Joseph-Dubois’ pass and Richard Pacquette was suddenly left with an unmissable chance from 12 yards.
Back came Alfreton though and Young’s header was tipped over from a 33rd minute right-wing corner, with Chris Senior then seeing his shot cleared off the line by Diak John as the next flag-kick homed in.
A vital touch by Law halted McClure’s progress at the expense of a corner, then a sloppy back-pass from Senior brought unnecessary further pressure before Lowson hacked hurriedly into touch.
A neat move down the left involved McClure, Pacquette and Soares before Theo Streete’s timely interception, but five minutes before half-time the best move of the game ended with Nathan Jarman’s ‘goal’ being ruled out mysteriously for off-side.
Senior’s cross-field pass allowed Nathan Arnold to advance to the edge of the area before returning the compliment, with Senior then sending Clayton neatly to the by-line, only for the flag to be raised as Jarman - level at worst - poked the ball in at the far post.
The referee pointed to the spot for a second time in first-half added time, with Bentley again the perpetrator by impeding Clayton from Senior’s quickly-taken throw, but Law this time saw his well-taken penalty saved high to his right by keeper Arnold.
Alfreton emerged from the interval discussions in a determined mood, with Senior’s diving header just wide from Franklin’s cross and Clayton’s sharp angled drive held by Arnold from a Jarman pass.
However, a clear chance fell to Joseph-Dubois on 55 minutes, which fortunately for the Reds was fired straight at Lowson, then back at the other end Law’s free-kick led to Young’s header screaming inches wide of the back post.
Lowson had to stretch to palm away Pacquette’s shot from a McClure cross in the 65th minute, but five minutes later Alfreton were at last rewarded with Jamie Mullan turning in Arnold’s cross from six yards to register their inaugural Blue Square Bet Premier goal.
Raised spirits were dampened again though by the 73rd minute when Ryan Crockford curled a free-kick in off the post and Hayes were flattered by their 3-1 lead.
ALFRETON: Lowson; Law, Franklin, Streete, Young, M.Wilson, Brown, Clayton (Hall 85), Senior (Moult 66), Arnold, Jarman (Mullan 56). Unused subs: Hawes, Mackin.