Alfreton Town remain third bottom of the Vanarama Conference after their latest defeat at fourth placed Macclesfield Town on Saturday, despite enjoying prolonged spells of possession particularly in the second half.
The difference between the sides in a generally poor encounter boiled down to a wonder goal that should have been prevented and a huge slice of misfortune that led to a late killer second.
The Reds had won on their two previous visits to the Moss Rose, but barely chalked up a handful of chances on Saturday, although there were encouraging debuts for loan keeper Sam Johnson and defender Cliff Byrne.
Two other changes were made with Jordan Keane’s re-appearance in midfield and striker Karl Hawley returning after a three match suspension.
Paul Clayton and Nathan Hicks reverted to the bench, although both made late appearances, whilst keeper Cameron Dawson had returned to Sheffield Wednesday and Lathaniel Rowe-Turner was serving a one-game suspension.
Bradley Wood filled Rowe-Turner’s left-back berth with Byrne covering for Wood and Alfreton created the first chance of a slow-burning game in the seventh minute when Hawley just failed to connect properly with a Dan Bradley cross.
The game exploded into life in the 14th minute though when Macclesfield defender Scott Barrow embarked on a spectacular run from well inside his own half before literally waltzing through Alfreton territory to slot the ball past Johnson from the edge of the area.
For any home fan that goal will probably stay with them for decades, but from a defensive perspective it was the poorest way to concede with no tackles being made during Barrow’s progress.
A promising run by Hawley on 25 minutes ended with home keeper Rhys Taylor parrying, then Byrne had to head clear from Adriano Moke’s by-line cross two minutes later.
Johnson then held Moke’s effort after a confident run before another Bradley cross eventually drew the Reds back into the game, with Tom Shaw’s rasping drive from 18 yards needing Taylor’s utmost attention.
Luke Graham was dispossessed by Moke just before half-time with Tom Davies tidying up, then Matthew Barnes-Homer’s low drive was comfortably gathered by Johnson.
Alfreton showed much more urgency after the break with Hawley immediately going close from a Bradley pass before Anthony Howell’s through-ball needed shepherding back to Taylor by Barrow as Bradley arrived on the scene.
Keane headed over from a prime position from Shaw’s 54th minute free-kick, then Taylor had to stretch to palm away a deep Bradley cross from the right after Keane had fed Hawley.
Waide Fairhurst cut in before flashing a shot through the Reds’ goalmouth on 61 minutes, then Barnes-Homer saw successive efforts win a corner before blazing over from close range.
Danny Whitaker fired over in the 71st minute for the hosts, then saw his shot loop up off Bradley before dropping the wrong side of the back post eight minutes later.
A hectic scramble was triggered by Howell’s 82nd minute corner that saw Clayton, Graham and Davies involved before Alex Grant’s goal-line clearance, then three minutes later the issue was put beyond doubt in unfortunate fashion.
Byrne’s clearance hit Bradley and rebounded to Fairhurst, unmarked on the left and undoubtedly off-side under normal circumstances, who steered the ball gratefully past Johnson with Byrne left kicking the upright in frustration.
ALFRETON: Johnson; Byrne, Graham, Davies, Wood, Keane (Hicks 77), Bradley, Shaw, Howell, Hawley, Lamb (Clayton 71). Subs not used: McDonald, Courtney, Sheridan.