Match report: Torquay United 1 Alfreton Town 1

10-0196-8'' Alfreton, Nicky Law
10-0196-8'' Alfreton, Nicky Law

Alfreton Town ventured the furthest south in their history to register a vital point against Torquay United on Sunday, thanks to a stunning late equaliser from Andi Thanoj.

The midfielder had been out of action since incurring a bad injury in the 0-2 defeat at Aldershot Town exactly three months earlier, but after making a second half appearance lashed the ball home spectacularly from 30 yards in the fourth and final minute of added time.

Duane Courtney and Lee Stevenson returned to the starting line-up, the latter for the first time since August, with Jordan Keane making way and Cliff Byrne not having travelled.

John Johnston had just penned a new 18-month contract, having previously been on loan from Crewe Alexandra, and duly showed the people of Devon just what he was capable of, two early crosses causing panic among the Torquay defenders.

Lathaniel Rowe-Turner and Karl Hawley had both previously played for the Gulls, the former soon having to shepherd behind a through-ball from Duane Ofori-Acheampong that was intended for Jordan Chapell.

Rowe-Turner misjudged Durrell Berry’s 15th minute cross, but immediately atoned by preventing Ryan Bowman from capitalising on his mistake, then Chapell’s goalbound shot took a fortunate deflection behind.

Stevenson went close in the 24th minute from another Johnston cross, then a piercing free-kick from Tony Ajala needed heading behind by Luke Graham, although Kristian Pearce inadvertently allowed the ball to bounce against him as he tried to watch it out of play, and only prevented his side from gaining a corner.

Johnston’s long, raking foray on the half-hour mark, following a quickly taken Anthony Howell free-kick, ended with the winger firing inches wide.

Ajala went close for Torquay, then on 40 minutes Tom Shaw had to clear off the line after Luke Young had played Chapell through.

Chapell then blazed over four minutes after the break, with Hawley missing a similar opportunity at the other end, before Reds’ keeper George Willis saved from Ajala with his legs.

Dan Bradley fired over after home keeper Jordan Seabright had punched aside an awkward Shaw corner, then Howell just failed to connect with a Bradley cross at the back post and Hawley was again off target from the edge of the area.

Former Mansfield Town player Louis Briscoe squandered a good chance after Willis had bravely blocked from Chapell in the 67th minute, but five minutes later Plainmoor was lit up by the opening goal which stemmed from a massive goal-kick by Seabright.

To say the goal was untidy would be an understatement, as the ball was allowed to bounce all the way through to the edge of the Alfreton area, where Willis and Courtney left the decision to intercept to each other and Chapell nipped in to scuff the ball off his shin into an unguarded net.

Mounting pressure saw Courtney clear off the line from Bowman on 74 minutes, but the Reds rallied with Johnston finding the side-netting after Thanoj and Shaw had combined, then Hawley’s angled drive was hacked off the line by Berry.

Torquay though should have settled the issue in the 90th minute when Ajala found space on the left, only to try a shot with Bowman free in front of goal, allowing Willis to again save with his legs to groans from the home contingent.

Deep, deep into stoppage time Rowe-Turner squared the ball for Thanoj to send the travelling faithful into a frenzy with a thunderous drive that few goalkeepers would have even spotted before it hit the back of the net.

ALFRETON: Willis; Wood, Graham, Courtney, Rowe-Turner, Johnston, Shaw, Bradley (Thanoj 62), Stevenson (McDonald 83), Howell (Hicks 83), Hawley. Subs not used: Keane, Sheridan.

Attendance: 2,028 (57).