Alfreton Town missed a glorious opportunity to extricate themselves from the Vanarama Conference relegation zone when they succumbed to Dover Athletic on Saturday after holding the lead at half-time.
The lmpact Arena was shrouded in mist as the game progressed, and for much of the first half the weather posed a bigger problem than the visitors, but a poor second half performance by the Reds set up the opportunity for Dover to record a double from the first two meetings between the sides.
Loanee striker Carl Lamb was preferred up front to Massiah McDonald as Alfreton sought a third game unbeaten, but an early miss by the new striker let Dover off the hook when his tame shot was held by keeper Andrew Rafferty after Paul Clayton’s nod through had dissected defenders Tom Bonner and Richard Orlu in the seventh minute.
Bradley Wood had already needed to tackle back as Solomon Tiawo played Tom Murphy through in a lively opening spell, then Lamb’s defensive clearance from a Dover corner fell to Stefan Payne whose shot was diverted behind.
A Wood through-ball in the 13th minute was half cleared by Bonner only as far as Lamb, but once again Rafferty was able to save, then at the other end Reds’ keeper Cameron Dawson had to slide to the edge of his area as Luke Graham’s weak back-pass almost invited Stefan Payne to score.
Murphy had a clear sight of goal two minutes later, but after delaying his shot Wood was able to hack clear, then after a lull in play Lamb glanced a header wide from a Lathaniel Rowe-Turner cross.
Clayton managed to miss from close range in the 28th minute, after Rowe-Turner’s cross was again misjudged by Bonner, then Tom Davies needed to halt Payne’s progress on the edge of the area as Dover threatened for the first time in 20 minutes.
Nathan Hicks took a neat return pass from Rowe-Turner only to fire his by-line cross into the side-netting on 35 minutes, then five minutes later Tom Shaw broke the deadlock with a huge slice of luck finally going Alfreton’s way.
Quite what was going through Payne’s mind as he lifted his foot at the near post to allow Shaw’s corner to curl directly into the net is anybody’s guess, but the gift was accepted as the midfielder celebrated.
Nicky Deverdics spent a recent spell with Alfreton, but repaid his hospitality with a brace of goals as the side from the furthest reaches of Kent dominated second half proceedings.
The equaliser on 53 minutes saw Deverdics pick up Murphy’s through-ball well behind Alfreton lines, but there was no flag coming to the Reds’ rescue as he thumped the ball high past the exposed Dawson.
Rafferty held a low Shaw free-kick in the 56th minute, only to set up a counter-attack that saw Rowe-Turner slip as he tried to turn and Payne flashed his shot across the face of the goal.
Deverdics struck again in the 65th minute to nudge Dover ahead, but unfortunately the goal was largely attributable to Dawson who failed to control his deep free-kick from wide right and allowed the ball to squirm through his hands into the net.
Dawson atoned somewhat seven minutes later when Murphy looked certain to score following a Tiawo free-kick, the keeper parrying from close range, but Dover led 3-1 anyway by the 73rd minute.
Payne made amends for his earlier error of judgement to volley home Murphy’s cross amidst an ocean of space, then much too late in the game Alfreton rallied with sub Jake Sheridan’s shot on the turn blocked.
As the game entered stoppage time Tyrone Sterling put his side under unnecessary pressure by picking up a second yellow card when he tried to prevent an Alfreton throw-in from being taken quickly.
Moments later the hosts reduced the deficit when Shaw claimed his second goal of the game by stabbing Sheridan’s cross home from eight yards following Wood’s long throw.
It was the midfielder’s fifth goal of the season, and with 25% of the 20 League and Cup goals registered by Alfreton so far this campaign Shaw became the club’s leading scorer as he overtook both Joe Ironside and Karl Hawley, the latter having now completed his three-match suspension.
Late, late in added time Sheridan unleashed a shot from the edge of the area that Rafferty parried to ensure that Dover enjoyed their long journey home.
Alfreton: Dawson; Wood, Graham, Davies, Rowe-Turner, Hicks (Sheridan 68), Bradley, Shaw, Howell, Clayton (Ironside 68), Lamb (McDonald 82). Subs not used: Courtney, Keane.