Posted by: Will Sendel
Mon 3rd April 2023
Alfreton Town climbed to 6th place following a hard-fought 2-0 home win against Leamington on Saturday (April 1).
The Reds climbed above promotion rivals Chorley and Scarborough, who lost and drew respectively; and the result took their clean sheet tally to 18 for the season, the best in the division.
Manager Billy Heath was forced to make changes after regular left-back Josh Clackstone was injured by a horror tackle against Spennymoor Town during the week. Dwayne Wiley was moved from centre-half to fill the position, with Peter Dearle coming into the starting line-up.
The game started scrappily with both sides struggling to gain any control or influence, and Alfreton showing little of the tenacity that their fans have come to expect.
On eight minutes, a long ball found Matt Rhead 30 yards from goal. Rhead flicked the ball on to Bailey Hobson whose drive, after some clever dribbling to get around his defender, looked destined for the net until visiting keeper Ted Cann dived to his right to tip over for a corner.
There was a break in play when, at the opposite end, George Willis went down injured from a knock he had received earlier. After treatment he was able to continue, much to the relief of the home fans.
Leamington began to grow into the game and looked the more likely to break the deadlock. On 15 minutes they should have done just that, when Adam Walker’s 12 yard effort curled narrowly wide of Willis’ post.
Lack of dominance from either team meant real end-to-end play, with chances being created in both boxes of the Impact Arena. The best of these fell to the home side in the 28th minute, when Adam Lund’s long throw found the head of Rhead, whose flick-on was cleared by The Brakes goalie with a Superman-like punch.
The next chance fell to Leamington a few minutes later, when referee David McNamara judged Hobson to have handled and awarded the visitors a free kick just outside the Reds’ box. Devon Kelly-Evans’ curling effort brought a superb save from Willis, diving to tip the goal-bound effort wide.
Alfreton failed to exert any telling influence on the remainder of the half. Other than a penalty claim when the ball appeared to hit a Leamington defender’s arm, the home side did not come close to breaking the deadlock.
In a proper game of two halves, however, the Ofton emerged after the break determined to secure all three points.
Ahmed Salam came close to grabbing the opener shortly after the restart, latching onto a long ball from Willis but shooting straight at Cann.
The confidence and resolve which has driven Alfreton’s late promotion charge saw them take the lead on 56 minutes. Lund’s long throw, effectively used all afternoon, found the head of Rhead in the opposition box, and his nod down to Hobson saw the midfielder drill the ball home.
The goal changed the dynamic of the game, with the Reds now playing with style and fluidity, and showing the defensive prowess that has become their trademark.
After repeated attacks, Alfreton’s second goal finally arrived in the 75th minute. Substitute Dayle Southwell showed great ability to weave his way to the right byline, before crossing to Rhead who placed the ball into the side netting for his eleventh league goal of the season.
Lund’s long throws continued to threaten, the midfielder launching the ball into the box twice more but failing to find a recipient.
The difference in quality between the sides was apparent over the final 10 minutes, with Alfreton comfortably seeing the game out until the ref’s whistle confirmed that all three points would be heading to the Impact.
In appraising the game, straight talking Billy Heath didn’t spare his teams’ blushes for their lacklustre first half performance.
“I thought we were second best for the first half. Leamington looked a little bit brighter… we were a yard slow.”
Having acknowledging this, the gaffer moved on to praise his team for how they came back into the game after the break.
“We asked a lot more questions…we started to dictate the game and we started to put on a lot of pressure. Once we got that (first) goal we went on and we deserved to win the game.”
Focus now turns to Friday night’s away fixture against Peterborough Sports, unbeaten in their previous 7 league games. Such is the battle for promotion, a win could take Alfreton to 5th, but a loss could see them drop out of the play-off places. Squeaky Bum time, as Sir Alex Ferguson might have said!
Alfreton Town 2 – 0 Leamington FC
(Hobson 56, Rhead 75)
Official attendance – 529
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