Posted by: Laura Hammond
Fri 31st March 2023
Written by Will Sendel
Alfreton Town moved to within two points of the play-off places after a breathless 3-2 victory against promotion rivals Spennymoor Town on Tuesday (28 March). They also have one or two games in hand over all the teams above them.
The game was full of excitement, with goals aplenty and two red cards for the visitors, one of which left the Reds’ full back Josh Clackstone with what Billy Heath described as “a massive gouge out of the top of his knee”.
Heath’s team were looking for their first goal in over 200 minutes of football as the game kicked off, and the home fans didn’t have long to wait to see the goal drought broken.
A free kick on the right of the opposition box lofted in by Ahmed Salam looked comfortable enough for Spennymoor keeper Harry Flatters, but in a moment of panic the ball was dropped at the feet of Dwayne Wiley who poked home with just 75 seconds gone.
The visitors were left frustrated after referee Gareth Thomas dismissed their claims for a penalty when Jake Day was seemingly grabbed by George Willis in the box in the 6th minute.
The opposition could not gain a foothold in the game as Alfreton proved themselves serious promotion contenders, outplaying the opposition and launching wave after wave of attacks which lead to a doubling of their lead just before the quarter-hour mark.
Nifty play from Alfreton saw Bailey Hobson fouled in the Spennymoor box. Before the referee could award a penalty, however, Matt Rhead stroked the ball past Flatters to take his goal count for the season into double figures.
Alfreton were unrelenting, and should have extended their lead when George Cantrill smashed the ball over the bar from 6 yards out just two minutes later.
On the 19th minute, The Reds had another chance to capitalise on their attacking prowess. An inviting Salam corner found the head of Lund, whose powerful effort was somehow blocked by James Curtis’ dive to head the ball away.
A rare counterattack from Spennymoor halved Ofton’s lead 4 minutes later. A corner for the visitors fell to Paul Blackett, whose shot took a heavy deflection to direct it out of Willis’ reach.
The Reds were undeterred, however, and continued to attack with the same tenacity as they had been doing all match.
Another howler from Flatters allowed Dom Smith to restore the host’s two goal cushion in the 28th minute, when the goalkeeper failed to hold onto a cross from Yusifu Ceesay. The ball found itself at Smith’s feet, who made no mistake in front of goal.
The first 45 minutes saw Alfreton continue to dominate, but despite Rhead twice coming close to increasing their lead the half ended 3-1.
As the second period began, frustration from the Spennymoor team became apparent, with the players and the manager increasingly voicing their annoyance. Joe Tait was the main perpetrator, being warned by the referee on several occasions to watch his language.
Tensions boiled over in the 52nd minute when a horror challenge on Clackstone resulted in Spennymoor defender Reece Kendall receiving his marching orders. Both players slid in for a loose ball, but Kendall’s studs were high enough to plant themselves into Clackstone’s thigh, forcing the Reds’ full back to leave the pitch on a stretcher.
After the injury, the momentum of the game shifted. Whilst Alfreton continued to attack, they no longer had the same level of control as they did in the first. The game became much more end-to-end, with both sides fashioning promising chances.
Despite being a man down, Spennymoor got back into the game in the 69th minute after a breathtaking goal from Blackett, who lobbed Willis from 45 yards to score his second of the evening.
At the other end Flatters made up somewhat for his earlier blunders, making an excellent save from Peter Dearle to deny the centre-half what would have been a debut goal in his first league game for the home side.
Another chance to ease the mounting Spennymoor pressure was squandered when Rhead put a header wide of the goal.
In the 81st minute Spennymoor lost another man when the ref showed Tait a straight red card for what appeared to be foul and abusive language.
After Spennymoor’s nine men failed to create any further chances of substance, Alfreton walked away with three crucial points.
Billy Heath was full of praise for his side’s performance at full time.
“I thought the first 45 minutes was the best we’ve played all season. We dominated them from minute one, we could have been three or four up.”
The manager was understandably upset with the potentially season-ending tackle on Josh Clackstone.
“He (Clackstone) has a huge gouge out of the top of his knee. It’s huge. There was no need for the challenge. It was horrendous.”
Alfreton are back at the Impact Arena this Saturday, where a win over 21st place Leamington FC could push The Reds into the play-off places should Scarborough Athletic or Chorley lose.
Alfreton Town 3 – 2 Spennymoor Town
(Wiley 2, Rhead 15, Smith 28) (Blackett 23, 69)
Official Matchday Attendance – 377
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