Cambridge United 3,
Alfreton Town 6
The abiding memory of Alfreton Town’s first-ever victory over a Conference National team in Tuesday night’s epic replay at Cambridge United was not necessarily Paul Clayton’s flamboyant hat-trick or even Josh Law’s heroic performance as a limping passenger in extra-time who still managed to set up the last two goals.
In fact it did not even happen during the course of the game, but straight after the final whistle the jubilant Reds’ players went over to the loyal supporters and one by one hugged or shook hands with each and every one of them - a moving moment that surely must have set a precedent in modern-day football.
Matt Wilson’s stinging drive from the edge of the area could only be parried by Naisbitt. The loose ball was picked up by Kevin Roberts but he was dispossessed by Nathan Arnold, who in turn was hauled down by the Cambridge defender and a penalty was awarded in front of the home fans. Law swept it high to the keeper’s right and Alfreton were ahead with 22 minutes on the clock.
In the 38th minute, United were back on level terms when Paul Carden’s cross picked out Saah and the latter smashed the ball in from the right-side angle of the area.
Cambridge led in the 69th minute after a good run down the right by Russell led to sub Danny Wright turning the ball past Gamble from eight yards.
Alfreton bounced back in style in the 78th minute with Clayton turning and firing into the corner of the net from ten yards from fellow sub Anton Brown’s cross.
And Reds’ fans could scarcely believe their eyes when Brown fired home from close range four minutes later to edge them 3-2 ahead after a long throw by Connor Franklin had triggered a goalmouth scramble.
But just as they had in the original tie, Cambridge made the score 3-3 in the 88th minute when Jennings was credited with the goal by floating a flag-kick straight in.
Alfreton went ahead in the 96th minute with the goal of the night. Naisbit could only palm a corner as far as the penalty spot, but Clayton launched an overhead kick that flashed into the back of the net.
The issue was settled once and for all in the 112th minute when Law bravely forced the ball to Arnold and his cross was volleyed in by Laurie Wilson from 12 yards.
Clayton secured his hat-trick with two minutes remaining after Law had again forced the ball through to Arnold, the striker pouncing from eight yards.
Alfreton: Gamble; Law, Franklin, Flint, Stride (Brown h/t), L.Wilson, J.Hall, Ross (Moult 72), C.Hall (Clayton 37), Arnold, M.Wilson. Other subs: A.Wilson, Dillon.
Attendance: 1,098 (75 from Alfreton).