Alfreton Town concluded their season in style with a well-earned 1-0 victory at second placed North Ferriby United on Saturday.
Sam Smith grabbed the winner in the 65th minute, despite being heavily bandaged after receiving a nasty cut to the head in the first half.
lt could be argued that Ferriby had one eye on their forthcoming play-off semi-final, but the Reds took the game to them at every opportunity and most would agree that they won on merit.
Two changes were made to the side that had lifted the Derbyshire Senior Cup on penalties in midweek, Smith replacing the injured Jamie Jackson and Lindon Meikle making way for Ryan Wilson, both replacements arguably having their best games to date in a Reds’ shirt.
Early Alfreton pressure saw Sam Jones drag a decent chance wide before his angled drive was blocked by Danny Hone, then Smith twice went close before the hosts could muster their first attack in the 18th minute with Liam King’s free-kick deflected behind.
An exquisite back-heel from Jones sent Wilson scampering through, only to be denied by keeper Adam Nicklin, then a particularly accurate Wilson corner almost lured Mark Gray into heading an own goal.
Wilson then had to help out in defence, diverting behind a good effort from Ryan Kendall in the 27th minute, the same United player heading wide from the subsequent corner.
Dan Bradley managed to whip in a trademark cross, but alas Smith and Jones failed to make contact in front of goal.
Smith almost managed to bundle a Tom Allan free-kick over the line in the 47th minute, but Nicklin parried and Russ Fry hacked the ball off the line, then a good spell by the home team led to wasted chances by both Kendall and King when they perhaps would normally have been more lethal.
The decisive goal stemmed from a bizarre clearance by Reds’ keeper Matt Duke, the ball bouncing twice before being tipped over the bar frantically by Nicklin.
The corner from Wilson again caused uncertainty in Ferriby’s rearguard with Jones seeing his shot blocked, but Smith was on hand to smash the rebound high into the net from eight yards.
Nicklin had to parry successive shots from Jones and Joe Leesley, Gray did his best to beat his own keeper again when he sliced a Leesley cross over the bar, and despite a quiet afternoon the last word was Duke’s when he was required to react smartly four minutes from time as Kendall raced free.
ALFRETON: Duke; Moyo, Jordan, Heaton, Allan, Nyoni, Leesley, Bradley, Jones, Wilson, Smith [Meikle 90+2].
SUBS NOT USED: Doyle-Charles, Banton.