Alfreton Town and third placed Brackley Town fought out an entertaining 1-1 draw in dreadful weather conditions at the Impact Arena on Tuesday night in the Vanarama National League North.
Lee Ndlovu had given the visitors a 15th-minute lead when he crashed home a Gareth Dean through-ball off the underside of the crossbar, Alfreton though taking only three minutes to draw level when a well rehearsed Brendon Daniels free-kick was headed past keeper Daniel Lewis with simplicity.
Reds’ manager John McDermott was pleased with his side’s performance.
“Both teams obviously wanted three [points],” said McDermott. “Arguably, they could say they could have nicked it at the end and taken all three. They put us under a little bit of pressure in the last five minutes or so, but we could have said that we could have nicked it in the first half with two or three flying past the back post.
“We’ve held our own there against a good side, a fancied side. They’ve got a big budget there - they’ve spent well, they’ve took a lot of lads who won the league from Solihull, big squad - and we’re getting better, we’ve held our own there against a team that was third.
“There’s nothing to fear in this league.
“This result tonight was a massive step for us because it’s belief for the next four or five games, where we’ve got nothing to fear in going away from home and playing teams in and around us. The most important thing is to beat the teams below you, beat the teams just on your shirt-tails and try and not get beat by the teams around you, and that’s what we’ve done.
“Yes we were at home, but conditions were horrendous. We thought we’d go uphill and get the rain behind us and all of a sudden it’s going the other way!
“The grit the players showed - the determination - was a good sign. That nitty-gritty where we can dig in and we held our own physically. You’ve got Billy [Priestley] that’s cut, you’ve got Westy [Craig Westcarr] with a cut to the bottom of his chin - but that’s what it’s all about. If you’re going to win things you’ve got to be prepared to get cut to score a goal or defend a goal.
“Platt’s done his hamstring, so he might be out for a while so he’ll be a big loss for us for a bit, but that’s what the squad’s for. We’ll look forward to Saturday - it’ll be a tough game, cup games are always hard. Now, for us it’s the mental test, we’ve held up the physical side of it, the mental test of being ruthless.”
Reds’ keeper Chris Elliott had to turn behind an angled drive from Matt Lowe four minutes before Ndlovu opened the scoring, but after equalising Alfreton pressed hard and successive driven crosses from Westcarr and Ricky German flashed through the Brackley goalmouth with no takers.
Eleven minutes into the second half Elliott was again in defiant mode, saving well from Shane Byrne, and repeated that save from the same player 17 minutes from time as the wind and rain intensified.
Alfreton’s most promising move saw Bradley Wood’s deep cross headed on by Tom Platt before Lewis gathered under pressure from Ryan Jennings, but close to the finish it needed a superb block by Priestley to prevent Aaron Williams from snatching a late winner for Brackley.
ALFRETON: Elliott; Wood, Shiels, Priestley, Keane, Platt, Disley, Jennings, Daniels [Smith 85], Westcarr [Allan 90+2], German [Sharp 56]. Subs not used: Topliss, Robertson.
BRACKLEY: Lewis; Lowe, Gudger, S.Byrne, Graham, Dean, G.Walker, J.Byrne, Ndlovu [Williams 73], Brown [Diggin 88], A.Walker. Subs not used: Myles, Tillney, Franklin.
Referee: Martyn Rawcliffe.