Alfreton Town 1, Forest Green Rovers 6
Alfreton Town were given a harsh lesson in the realities of life at Conference Premier level on Saturday, when perennial strugglers Forest Green Rovers emerged from the Impact Arena with a flattering 6-1 victory.
It was an horrific outcome for the Reds against a team seeking their first win of the season, but defensive errors were in abundance and their cause was certainly not helped by the injury to Anthony Wilson that saw Alfreton concede three late goals with only ten men on the pitch.
Wilson had replaced Jamie Mullan in the 65th minute, but by the time he had hobbled off just 13 minutes later all the Reds’ substitutes had been used as manager Nicky Law briefly threw four strikers forward in a bid to cut the 1-3 deficit that had prevailed since midway through the first-half.
Paul Clayton almost gave Alfreton the lead inside the opening ten seconds as Rovers’ keeper Matt Bulman hacked a clearance straight at him, but the lob from 25 yards drifted over the bar.
Forest Green struck in the fourth minute with James Turley hooking in from six yards from a Reece Styche cross amid appeals for off-side, but Alfreton responded with Nathan Arnold robbing Jared Hodgkiss on the edge of the area only to direct his tenth minute shot straight at Bulman.
Three minutes later though the Reds were level when Theo Streete claimed his first Alfreton goal with a firm header from six yards into the roof of the net from Josh Law’s cross.
Charlie Griffin restored Forest Green’s lead on 19 minutes with a header from 15 yards from a Chris Allen corner, then back at the other end shortly after the restart Greg Young headed wide from another Moult corner.
An absolute howler from home keeper Dan Lowson gifted Rovers a third goal in the 22nd minute when he first of all came out of his area to control the ball under little pressure, but then miskicked it and allowed Styche to intercept and curl the ball into an unguarded net from 20 yards.
The first-half ended with Streete heading wide from a Law corner then seconds after taking the field Anthony Wilson almost succeeded in playing Clayton through only for Turley to divert the ball behind.
It was then Streete’s turn to break up a dangerous Forest Green move by nicking the ball off Yan Klukowski at the expense of a 63rd minute corner, then a low Nathan Jarman drive was held by Bulman under pressure from Chris Senior.
Bulman had to stretch to punch out a deep Connor Franklin cross in the 74th minute as the Reds pushed forward defiantly despite being reduced to ten men, but the game was put beyond their reach two minutes later when Styche held off Young from Luke Graham’s pass to steer the ball past Lowson from 16 yards.
There was brief hope of a rally ten minutes from time when Jarman’s cross seemed ideal for Streete to nod in, but Graham just managed to nick the ball away from him, then a long, unchecked run by Robbie Matthews ended with his shot being curled around the back post.
Had the referee blown at the end of 90 minutes the 1-4 score-line might have been more palatable and would certainly have been a more accurate reflection of the afternoon, but Alfreton went on to concede two more goals in added time.
The fifth goal was inexplicable in that Streete seemed to have blocked Matthews cross into the box after the Rovers’ sub had dispossessed Matt Wilson and outpaced Young, but under no pressure he then miskicked the ball into his own net to mar an otherwise notable personal performance.
The rout was completed with arguably the best goal of the game when a crossfield pass from James Rowe was lashed home by Kulkowski in the fourth minute of stoppage time.
Alfreton: Lowson; Law, Franklin Streete, Young, M.Wilson, Brown, Moult (Jarman 62), Clayton, Arnold (Senior 65), Mullan (A.Wilson 56). Unused subs: Hall, Mackin.
Forest Green: Bulman; Hodgkiss, Stokes, Turley, Klukowski, Styche (McDonald 86), Griffin (Matthews 79), Forbes, Graham, Allen, Rowe. Unused subs: Bittner, Imudia, Henry.
Attendance: 686 (inc. 60 from FGR).