Alfreton Town face another long trip for a replay in the FA Cup after holding League Two side Newport County to a 1-1 draw at the Impact Arena on Sunday, in front of the BBC cameras.
Manager Nicky Law declared: “I think we deserved it - I think we started the more positive of the two teams, and had we got one those chances early doors it would have been a different game.
“When you compare their full-time training every day to a team that’s getting an hour a week together - there wasn’t a massive deal of difference in the teams.”
The Reds had started the tie on a positive note, Niall Heaton’s first minute long throw causing problems with Kallam Mantack’s shot blocked and Cecil Nyoni’s follow-up missing the target.
Craig Westcarr’s 12th-minute corner led to Mantack firing a rising drive over, then Andy Monkhouse’s driven cross eluded both Adam Priestley and Westcarr, but Newport had an early chance too with Rhys Healey’s bye-line cross cleared behind by Heaton.
With 18 minutes elapsed there was a let-off for the Reds when keeper Fabian Spiess made his one and only error of the game by fumbling Kyle Cameron’s cross as he collided with Heaton, the latter able to hook clear after a heart-stopping moment.
Spiess soon atoned with a decent save low to his left from Josh Sheehan, then in the 24th-minute Brad McGowan headed back a Paul Marshall free-kick for Priestley’s near post shot that was held by former Alfreton keeper Joe Day.
Priestley’s next effort was turned behind at full stretch by Day, then a brace of Westcarr crosses from the left were dealt with under pressure by Newport.
At half time Law reminded his players of the game plan.
“Before the game I told them to go out there and be positive, try to stop them playing, try and impose ourselves, go on the front foot and have no regrets and have no fear, and l think we did that - we went out there and more than matched them,” he said.
A diagonal run by Priestley 14 minutes after the break petered out when he took the ball too far across goal, but on 64 minutes the Exiles took the lead in slick style when Sean Rigg’s run from the half-way line allowed Sheehan to slot the ball past Spiess from 15 yards.
It was only ten minutes later though that Alfreton were back on level terms, with defender Terry Kennedy turning Priestley’s cross past Day from just inside the six-yard box.
“We were disappointed with the goal we conceded,” said Law. “I thought we lost the ball on the edge of the 18 yard area, whether there’s a foul or not I’m not sure, we’re backing off, backing off, backing off and at some stage we should have confronted the lad with the ball and we haven’t done that. It’s a good finish, but we’re disappointed with the nature of the goal we’ve given away. But that hasn’t sunk us, made us despondent - we reacted positively and scored a good goal with a good finish.”
The replay was only secured with a phenomenal tip-over by Spiess with ten minutes remaining from Rigg’s screamer of a free-kick, Ben Tozer and Westcarr going close for their respective sides in the latter stages.
ALFRETON: Spiess; Mantack, McGowan, Kennedy, Heaton, Wilson, Nyoni, Monkhouse, Marshall (Allan 73), Westcarr, Priestley (Hearn 86). Subs not used: A. Smith, S. Smith.
NEWPORT: Day; Barnum-Bob, Jones, Myrie-Williams (Butler 61), Tozer, Bignot, Sheehan, Bennett, Cameron, Healey, Rigg. Subs not used: Labadie, Angel, Bittner, Wood.
REFEREE: Christopher Kavanagh.
ATT: 1,109 (193).