Match report: Alfreton Town 1 Woking 3

Alfretons Lee Stevenson bursts through the Woking defence.
Alfretons Lee Stevenson bursts through the Woking defence.

Despite taking a 14th minute lead through Lee Stevenson, Alfreton Town failed to buck the trend of losing their opening game of the season - the fourth occasion they have stumbled at the first hurdle since joining the Conference elite.

Many changes to personnel during the close season will have impacted on their performance, although there was a shortage of chances created by the Reds and Woking took full advantage of their opportunities.

There was also the small matter of a contentious second goal when Scott Rendell was allowed to advance from a suspiciously off-side position to convert John Goddard’s through-ball, even the Surrey press gasping in amazement at the lack of a flag before vocally celebrating.

Assistant manager Russ O’Neill was in charge of affairs alongside new coach Ronnie Glavin, with Nicky Law absent for the first time since 1st March 2008 as the gaffer started a six-match stadium ban which will see him miss all of the August fixtures.

Woking started strongly with Lathaniel Rowe-Turner having to guide behind a John Nutter cross in the second minute, with Joey Jones heading wide from the subsequent corner.

Jon Stewart needed a second go at holding a Dean Morgan free-kick three minutes later, then after 12 minutes Goddard unleashed a 25-yarder that dipped and struck the top of the crossbar.

Alfreton’s first attack of note produced their goal, with Paul Clayton pulling the ball back from the by-line for Stevenson to rifle low past keeper Aaron Howe from ten yards.

Goddard’s angled drive could only find the side-netting for the visitors on 22 minutes, then four minutes later Clayton was left with a free header from a Tom Shaw corner but was well off target.

That miss was punished in the 27th minute by the equaliser, which was the product of a Goddard corner that caused mayhem in the box before Morgan pounced to stab the loose ball home from close range.

A 34th minute pass from Anthony Howell caught Howe and defender Joe McNerney in two minds, with the ball landing at Stevenson’s feet wide left, his cross then punched clear by the recovering keeper as Clayton homed in.

Five minutes later Stewart needed to pull off an impressive stretching save as Morgan broke through, then at the other end Stevenson ran on to Chris Smith’s through-ball before teeing up Shaw, whose header was saved by Howe.

Five minutes after the break an awkward inswinging corner from Josh Payne had to be punched from just under the bar by Stewart, then Rendell missed the easiest chance of the game on 59 minutes after Goddard had linked with Morgan on the left.

Within 60 seconds though Rendell had put Woking ahead through that controversial goal that had left him free to slot the ball past Stewart unchallenged, and eight minutes later Rendell struck again to complete the scoring from a Theo Lewis back-heel after Rowe-Turner’s attempted back header unfortunately rebounded off himself.

Bradley Wood fired over from 25 yards for the Reds, but Stewart was called into action again in the 77th minute, superbly blocking as McNerney played Rendell through in search of his hat-trick.

Rendell burst through again seven minutes later and again was thwarted by Stewart, before brief hope flickered at the other end with sub Jake Sheridan slamming the ball against the bar from six yards after Mike Cestor’s back-header had fallen woefully short.

A goal then might just have set up a rousing finish - as it was Massiah McDonald’s weak shot from a Sheridan cross and Smith’s rasper that was tipped over by Howe, after his initial shot had been blocked, failed to set the pulse-rate racing.

ALFRETON: Harris-Stewart; Gray, Smith, Graham, Rowe-Turner, Bradley, Howell, Shaw [Sheridan 67], Wood [Hicks 84], Stevenson [McDonald 80], Clayton. Subs not used: Keane, McFadzean.

Attendance: 613.