It was another disappointing outcome for Alfreton Town when relegation-haunted Stalybridge Celtic won rather too easily at the Impact Arena on Tuesday night.
The Reds were unfortunate enough to have a Liam Hearn goal ruled out for off-side, two good penalty appeals ignored and struck the upright on a couple of occasions, but the visitors produced some slick moves on occasions to make a mockery of their precarious plight.
Despite their win Stalybridge remain 17 points adrift of Alfreton with survival in the National League North highly unlikely, but goals from Danny Wisdom and Andy Bishop seven minutes either side of half-time were enough to earn them maximum points.
Reds’ manager Russ O’Neill had been forced to change his starting line-up as Ryan Wilson was injured during the warm-up, Niall Heaton coming off the bench whilst the only other change from the Bradford Park Avenue defeat had seen Liam Hearn replace Craig Westcarr.
Jordan Richards’ sizzling fifth-minute cross was just too strong for Callum McFadzean, but Celtic were soon pushing forward in response and three times James Roberts fired over from varying distances before a looping Aaron Chalmers header was held by Fabian Spiess.
Brad McGowan and Heaton both managed faint touches as McFadzean whipped in a 35th-minute corner, but the visitors led on 38 minutes when Danny Pilkington’s free-kick was firmly headed home at the back post by Wisdom.
Hearn went down in a heap as the first penalty appeal was waved aside, but on the stroke of 45 minutes there was a major let-off for the Reds as McGowan cleared from Darren McKnight before Terry Kennedy hacked Bishop’s shot off the line and Spiess somehow blocked the latter’s follow-up at close range.
With 52 minutes on the clock Roberts advanced down the inside-left channel before teeing up Bishop to stroke the ball past Spiess from an angle with the aid of the back post, and Alfreton were staring at a 0-2 deficit.
Stalybridge skipper Matty Hughes somehow scooped his header over the bar from six yards before Hearn’s disallowed effort, Hearn almost immediately heading against the upright from a Wes Atkinson cross.
Pilkington flashed a shot across the face of goal after an unchecked run down the right as Stalybridge resumed their forward surges, Spiess parried well as Roberts volleyed from an angle, then at the other end it was Atkinson’s turn to be denied by the woodwork with a deflected shot from a Richards pass.
McFadzean fired wide late on as Alfreton drew a blank in this one.
ALFRETON: Spiess; Richards, McGowan, Kennedy [Westcarr 54], Heaton, Monkhouse [Marshall 62], McFadzean, Shelton [Jordan 81], Atkinson, S.Smith, Hearn. Subs not used: Wright, Evans.
STALYBRIDGE: Shenton; Morton, Wisdom, Hughes, Mather, Chalmers, Dunbar, McKnight, Bishop [Ahmadi 82], Roberts [Oyibo 90+1], Pilkington [Bakare 84]. Subs not used: Platt, O’Neill.
Referee: Steven Copeland. Attendance: 347.