Late Arnold strike wins it for Reds

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Alfreton Town recorded a famous victory at Macclesfield Town’s Moss Rose on Saturday to stretch their unbeaten run to six games.

Eight years have elapsed since the League Two play-off contenders were held to a 1-1 draw in the FA Cup at the Impact Arena thanks to a late Mark Sale goal, before an offside decision robbed Peter Duffield of an Alfreton goal in the replay and the Silkmen went on to win 2-0.

Young Ross Killock will have had mixed feelings about his debut on loan from Leeds United, the central defender conceding a penalty that levelled the game after Dan Bradley’s early strike, but Nathan Arnold at last opened his account with an 88th minute clincher to help his cause.

Just 13 seconds had ticked away when Bradley unleashed a left-footer from 22 yards that sailed into the roof of the net before Macclesfield had had an opportunity to touch the ball, after Josh Law had taken the ball forward from the kick-off.

Even that had taken twice as long as Alfreton striker Ben Tomlinson 13 months earlier to put his former club Macclesfield ahead against Morecambe, when he had recorded one of the quickest goals in Football League history.

It was Bradley’s fifth goal in as many games, and he had another shot after 80 seconds from distance that home keeper Lance Cronin held.

It needed a very timely tackle by Reds’ skipper Darran Kempson to halt Chris Holroyd’s central run in the ninth minute, then Jon Stewart comfortably held a header by former Rams’ defender Pablo Mills from a Keiran Murtagh free-kick.

Bradley scuffed another effort wide from 25 yards in the 23rd minute, then out of the blue three minutes later Macclesfield had drawn level from the penalty spot.

A hopeful punt upfield by Mills was allowed to bounce in the area and as Chris Holroyd attempted to latch on to it Killock was deemed to have pushed him over, and Matthew Barnes-Homer smashed the spot-kick low past Stewart.

Cronin just managed to beat Anthony Wilson to the ball on 33 minutes, his hurried clearance sending Holroyd on a run to the by-line, but his cross was poor and completely missed the unmarked Barnes-Homer closing in at the back post.

Two minutes after the break Arnold saw his low drive saved by Cronin after Tomlinson had squared the ball to him, the move having been set up when Wilson dispossessed Craig Braham-Barrett near the halfway line.

Ryan Jackson’s swift break down the right spelt danger for Alfreton but the move ended with Arnaud Mendy firing hopelessly wide, then back at the other end another Arnold shot on 54 minutes was saved by the keeper’s legs.

A deep cross from Law found Wilson at the back post but he could not make proper contact with the ball, then Stewart had to be alert as a long-range Murtagh free-kick swerved and dipped late in flight.

Barnes-Homer typified the home side’s frustrations by shooting well wide from 20 yards in the 71st minute when better options looked to be available, then a strong blocking tackle by Wilson as Braham-Barrett took aim justified his assistance in defence as a spell of pressure was absorbed.

Ten minutes from time, the referee overruled his assistant to award a corner to Macclesfield that ended with Mills heading over, then Sam Wedgbury was off target from 22 yards.

Ironically, it was Wedgbury who gifted Alfreton the winning goal following a terrible misjudgement that allowed Arnold to pounce and take a couple of paces into the area before firing low past Cronin to the delight of the travelling contingent.