Alfreton Town beaten as goalkeeper crisis grows again

Alfreton's 'keeper George Willis -Pic by: Richard Parkes
Alfreton's 'keeper George Willis -Pic by: Richard Parkes

Alfreton Town’s desperate goalkeeping problem intensified when George Willis was injured after 31 minutes of their defeat at Lincoln City on Boxing Day.

It is the sixth different shotstopper used by the Reds, who remain in the bottom three of the Vanarama Conference following the defeat.

The young keeper continued after lengthy treatment, but initially against the advice of the home team’s doctor, who was eventually persuaded that a heavily bandaged Willis could resume his position.

For a few anxious moments Alfreton fans had visions of midfielder Anthony Howell once again taking over between the posts, as he had been forced to do for the 5-1 F.A.Cup defeat at the same venue in October.

Delano Sam-Yorke had charged in after Willis had initially dropped his angled drive, catching the keeper just above the eye, but there was no reaction from Alfreton players to suggest that there had been any malice intended, and to his credit the Lincoln player remained at Willis’s side until he had recovered.

There had been one change to the side defeated the previous week by Macclesfield Town, with Jordan Keane replacing Duane Courtney to slot in at left-back with Lathaniel Rowe-Turner filling the central defensive role.

There was also a late appearance for Lee Stevenson, who had returned from Stockport County after a three-month loan period.

There was an early setback for the Reds when the home side took the lead on the stroke of five minutes, Hamza Bencherif left with a clear header eight yards out that Willis could not hold following a deep free-kick by Sean Newton.

A strong run by Dan Bradley on 15 minutes ended with him being crowded out before Karl Hawley won a corner, then Bradley fired wide from 30 yards, but the action did not pick up until the final ten minutes of the first half.

Willis shrugged off his injury to save low from Nat Brown, then Bradley dragged a chance wide from the edge of the area when set up by Cliff Byrne.

Willis then saved superbly from Conner Robinson, with Luke Graham blocking Arnaud Mendy’s follow-up, and by far the best Alfreton move of the half involving Byrne, Bradley Wood and Bradley ended with a Lincoln free-kick after Hawley appeared to be hampered in the ensuing goalmouth scramble.

Two minutes after the break a run by Wood allowed John Johnston to fire at goal, but Bencherif diverted the ball behind, and from Tom Shaw’s corner Graham’s looping header was held by home keeper Paul Farman.

Graham had to clear off the line as lmps’ defender Bencherif sought his second goal from a Newton free-kick, then Farman decided to venture Bruce Grobbelaar style to the touch-line before conceding a quickly taken throw that led to Bradley firing wide as the errant keeper scampered back.

Alfreton were rewarded with a 57th minute equaliser when Johnston’s cross from the right picked out Hawley for a glancing header into the corner of the net from eight yards.

At either end headers sailed over from Brown and Byrne respectively before corners in the 70th and 73rd minutes led to Lincoln establishing a two goal cushion.

The first of Newton’s deliveries was not dealt with at a crowded near post, the ball falling conveniently for former Reds’ striker Ben Tomlinson to stab home from eight yards.

The third goal stemmed from a prolonged move following another Newton corner, that led to Marcus Marshall hammering the ball spectacularly past Willis from all of 30 yards.

Bradley had an immediate opportunity to reduce the deficit, but was left holding his head in his hands after heading over from close range in receipt of Hawley’s pass, but the midfielder’s perseverance paid off in the second minute of added time when he lashed home a loose ball from 22 yards in similar style to Marshall.

ALFRETON: Willis; Byrne, Graham, Rowe-Turner, Keane, Johnston (Hicks 83 mins), Wood, Bradley, Shaw (Sheridan 83 mins), Howell (Stevenson 79 mins), Hawley.

Subs not used: Courtney, Gray.

Att: 2685 (66 away)