Blue Square Bet Premier
Mansfield Town 3
Alfreton Town 2
ALFRETON Town were desperately unfortunate not to have pulled off a famous victory at Field Mill, after turning around at half-time with a meritous 2-0 lead.
But the Reds were forced to play out the final 30 minutes of this Blue Square Bet North derby with nine men, after Anthony Wilson and Greg Young had both been dismissed for second yellow cards.
Ten years ago to the day Alfreton needed Chris Wilder to score a last minute goal to force extra-time at Gedling Town in an FA Vase tie while the Stags were on their way to promotion to the current League One, such is the gulf that has been bridged in the decade since.
So the anguish in the Alfreton camp was clear for all to see when the hosts completed their fightback, having scored three goals inside the final 16 minutes by bombarding the depleted Reds.
Alfreton had started the game on the offensive with Wilson forcing the ball through to Paul Clayton after just 60 seconds, but the latter was nudged away by Ritchie Sutton.
Matt Green fired over from 12 yards for Mansfield from an Adam Murray cross, then a long run by Green ended with him curling a shot beyond the back post.
Wilson’s header was held by home keeper Alan Marriott from a seventh minute delivery by Luke Potter, who joined the Reds in midweek on loan from Championship side Barnsley.
Green was in the thick of the action again for the hosts with his header held by keeper Joe Day from a Luke O’Neill free-kick, but Alfreton took a 13th minute lead when Anton Brown found room for a neat downward header from eight yards.
The move stemmed from a trademark Leigh Franks’ throw that Wilson headed back into Brown’s path, then Young fired high and wide from a Josh Law free-kick before Joe Kendrick suffered a similar miss at the other end.
Clayton netted from very close range in the 21st minute to give Alfreton a two-goal lead for the first time this season, the goal set up by a superb crossfield pass by Jamie Mullan to Wilson who managed to lay the ball back to Jake Moult.
When the cross came in from the left, Marriott could only parry it and Mullan was able to pull the ball square from virtually on the by-line for Clayton to stoop and gleefully head in from less than a yard.
There was almost immediate bad news for the Reds though when skipper Law picked up a nasty ankle injury and had to be replaced at a crucial time for them.
Mansfield were visibly shaken and a bad miss by Green soon followed before the same player drew a good save from Day, then a Paul Connor header from a 31st minute corner had to be cleared off the line by Jordan Hall.
The turning point for Alfreton came in the 49th minute just after Connor had planted a firm header against the crossbar for Mansfield from an O’Neill free-kick, when Wilson was harshly given a second caution with no contact apparently made as Martin Riley collapsed on the halfway line.
At the same time Young was booked for protesting the decision, and 11 minutes later left the referee with no choice but to send him off when bringing down Lindon Meikle as he progressed down the right flank.
Alfreton had little option but to pack their defence and ride the wave of attacks but Murray niskicked from a Meikle tee-up, then Murray fired helplessly wide.
Such was the Reds’ commitment to defending that when they won their solitary corner in the 71st minute Chris Senior wore the only red shirt in the box as Nathan Jarman played the ball short to Moult, then in response Day saved a strong shot from Green.
Alfreton managed to hold out until the 74th minute when Adie Hawes was judged to have impeded Connor and a penalty was awarded, with Green firing high into the net from the spot to cut the deficit.
The Reds stood firm for a further 12 minutes as Mansfield became increasingly frustrated, then Meikle curled in an unstoppable shot from the edge of the area after jinking in from the right to level the game.
The killer blow arrived in the first minute of added time when former Reds’ player Andy Todd retrieved Green’s wayward shot before his angled drive was diverted into the net by the unlucky Day.
After the game both managers had similar views, with Nicky Law declaring “We totally bossed them with 11 players and would have won” while Mansfield’s Paul Cox admitted “We would not have scored for a week had they still had 11 players on the field.”
Mansfield Town: Andrew Marriott, Kendrick (Andy Todd 62), Riley, Luke O’Neill, Ritchie Sutton, Adam Murray, Bolland, Paul Connor, Matt Green, Ross Dyer, Lindon Meikle.
Substitutes not used: Shane Redmond (GK), Rhys Day, Worthington, Anthony Howell.
Alfreton Town: Joe Day, Josh Law (Nathan Jarman 32), Greg Young, Leigh Franks, Luke Potter, Anton Brown, Jake Moult, Jordan Hall, Jamie Mullan (Adie Hawes 63), Paul Clayton (Chris Senior 66), Anthony Wilson.
Substitutes not used: Levi Mackin and James Ellison.
Attendance: 2,982 including 320 from Alfreton.