New Year relief for Alfreton Town in match of three penalties
Relieved Alfreton Town started 2017 with a valuable 3-2 home win over fellow strugglers AFC Telford United to ease the pressure towards the wrong end of the National League, North Division table.
But although they twice led by two goals in a New Year Bank Holiday match of three penalties, they ended up having to rely on goalkeeper Ross Etheridge to keep them in the driving seat against their Shropshire visitors.
Indeed, in a nailbiting finale, Etheridge pulled off a dramatic double save four minutes into added time to prevent Bradley Reid and then Danny Reynolds from snatching an equaliser -- before Telford’s frustration boiled over when Ben Bailey received his marching orders for a second yellow card.
In front of a crowd of 601, Alfreton manager Nicky Law made four changes from the reverse fixture on Boxing Day, which had ended in a mundane 1-1 draw, opting to play Craig Westcarr and Mark Shelton up front, with three strikers on the bench, while there was an encouraging debut at right-back for latest signing Brad Gascoigne.
Shelton gave the Reds a 17th minute lead with a cool finish from just inside the area after running on to Paul Marshall’s through-ball. And the lead was doubled on 34 when Marshall forced his way into the area before being brought down by Josh Wilson for a penalty that Westcarr thumped past ‘keeper James Montgomery to put Alfreton seemingly in command at 2-0.
However, within 90 seconds of the restart, Telford had a spot-kick of their own when referee Anthony Tankard spotted a push on John-Paul Kissock and Wilson atoned for his earlier error by lashing the ensuing penalty past Etheridge.
Maybe the official felt there had been a fair enough quota of penalty awards for the time being when he decided to ignore the clearest claim of all four minutes before the interval when Ben O’Hanlon overtly tripped Kallam Mantack inside the area.
However, the Reds restored their two goal lead moments later when Marshall slotted home his first goal for the club from 14 yards, in receipt of a superb cross by Westcarr.
Remarkably, a third spot-kick was given three minutes into the second half as Etheridge brought down Reid after initially making a save at the Telford striker’s feet. Up stepped Wilson with an air of confidence, but this time he whacked the ball against the keeper’s left-hand upright, leaving the Bucks no nearer reducing the arrears.
Weak finishes by Shelton and Ryan Wilson failed to add to Alfreton’s tally before Kissock set up that anxiety-filled climax with a hopeful, deflected shot that sailed past Etheridge from all of 25 yards in the final minute of normal time.
ALFRETON LINE-UP -- Etheridge/ Gascoigne, McGowan, Jordan, Heaton, Monkhouse, Wilson R., Mantack, Marshall, Westcarr (Hearn 88), Shelton. SUBS NOT USED: Clayton, Nyoni, Priestley, Spiess.