Alfreton Town drew 2-2 with Darlington FC on Saturday, March 4

Match report: Alfreton complete spirited fightback to draw 2-2 with Darlington FC

Posted by: Laura Hammond

Mon 6th March 2023

Written by Will Sendel

Despite going two goals down early in the first half, efforts from Matt Rhead and Yusifu Ceesay made sure that the Reds didn’t walk away empty-handed from Saturday’s (March 4) clash with sixth place Darlington.

The point proved to be an important one after Chorley FC’s loss, as it places Alfreton just one win away from the play-offs with three games in hand.

From kick-off there was tension in the air, both teams understanding how important a win would be to keep chasing promotion. Neither side looked at ease, with both making sloppy passes and poor decisions.

Despite both teams making defensive errors, it was the visitors who managed to capitalise. After Danny Preston headed away a long pass from the Darlington defence, the ball fell to the feet of Ben Liddle, who dinked it through Jacob Hazel to run onto in the Alfreton box and slot home in the fifth minute.

Things worsened for the Reds 12 minutes later, when Darlington managed to grab a second courtesy of Kaine Felix. A pass from the away defence found Hazel on the left flank, who managed to avoid a challenge from Dominic Smith and send a low driven ball straight at George Willis from a tight angle. After failing to keep hold of Hazel’s effort, Willis’ save came loose in front of goal, where Felix managed to tuck the ball away to double the visitors’ lead.

Although two goals down, it was clear that the Reds were not giving up. They continued to create chances, coming closest in the 36th minute when Smith should have slammed a free header into the Darlington goal, but instead put it just wide.

It looked as though it was going to be a game of missed chances until, at the 45th minute, a typical goal from Rhead breathed a new life into the game. A long Adam Lund throw from the right found the head of Rhead, who powered the ball past goalkeeper Tommy Taylor’s outstretched arms to bring Alfreton back into the game.

After half time, Alfreton came out determined to come away with something, with the hosts having several opportunities which failed to materialise early in the second half.

Darlington were lucky not to be a man down, when Kallum Griffiths was only booked for bringing down Ceesay who looked to be clean through in the 56th minute.

The Reds’ persistence paid off when, in the 73rd minute, the equaliser finally arrived. A speculative ball from Willis was launched into the Darlington box, where Rhead used his physicality to nod the ball down to the feet of Ceesay. Ceesay, who had been electric all afternoon, steadied the ball with an excellent first touch, and his following strike found the bottom right corner of the Darlington net.

The rest of the match was a tense affair. Both sides had plenty of opportunities to win it but it was Alfreton who came closest. Ceesay again found himself with the ball in the box, but the eventual shot dragged agonisingly wide.

A full-time Alfreton Town looked disappointed to be only walking away with one point, which was a testament to the mentality of the team.

Speaking after the game, Billy Heath praised his men for their resilience after fighting back from two goals down early on.

He said: “You’ve got to show your mental toughness. You can’t dwell on mistakes you’ve made, and the players changed the outcome in difficult circumstances.”

The gaffer also made it clear that he was disappointed not to leave the game with all three points.

He said: “Even before we got the (equalising) goal we should have had another couple. We should have scored. We should have won the game, simple as that.”

Alfreton Town now begin preparations for another home fixture, where a win on Tuesday (March 7) against Banbury United could take the Reds into the play-off places.

Alfreton Town                                  2 – 2         Darlington FC

(Rhead, 45  Ceesay, 73)                                     (Hazel, 5   Felix, 17                           


Official Matchday Attendance – 663