Alfreton Town travelled to the north-west on Tuesday night as clear underdogs for their clash with runaway leaders AFC Fylde, but despite losing 2-0 the Reds put up an accomplished and encouraging performance.
Up until Cecil Nyoni’s unfortunate error that let the hosts in for their opening goal with just 22 minutes remaining, Alfreton had more than matched the Coasters, but a slick break proved lethal with Steve Williams setting up former Reds’ favourite Dan Bradley to fire a deflected shot beyond Fabian Spiess from the edge of the area.
To Bradley’s credit the record signing for Fylde declined to celebrate his goal, and endeared himself once again to the small band of travelling fans by making a point of shaking hands with every one of them moments after the final whistle.
All the stuffing was knocked out of the Reds in the 77th minute when a corner was worked out to Caspar Hughes 25 yards from goal, and he unleashed an unstoppable thunderbolt that flew into the net at a gathering rate of knots.
Alfreton had ridden their luck on a couple of occasions during a first-half that frankly they dominated, Brendon Daniels producing a tenth minute downward header from six yards with such power that it bounced over the bar, then eight minutes after that let-off Spiess pulled off a brilliant save from Bradley when a goal looked inevitable.
Tom Allan was playing a much more forward role than usual and created Alfreton’s first clear chance at the midpoint of the first-half, firing at goal with home keeper Rhys Taylor parrying under pressure, then Mark Shelton fired over from an Andy Monkhouse cross.
Maybe the best chance of the night for the Reds came and went in the 34th minute, Adam Priestley steering wide when left with a clear sight of goal from Paul Clayton’s deep cross, then two minutes into the second half a darting run by Clayton ended with a low drive that Taylor parried and Andy Bond partially cleared, but Allan could not turn the loose ball in.
ln the minutes before Fylde finally edged ahead Allan saw his header held by the keeper from an inviting Ryan Wilson cross, the league’s top scorer Danny Rowe slipped when preparing to give the home side the lead and Clayton played Shelton through with the only reward being a corner for the Reds.
Between the goals Allan dragged a half-chance wide from another neat piece of play by Clayton, and the lead-up to Hughes’ decisive strike had seen Spiess once again excel with a flying save from a Rowe free-kick.
Terry Kennedy had been solid at the back in partnership with Brad McGowan, but picked up a nasty shoulder injury in added time, the centre-back bravely continuing for the final few minutes with Alfreton having used up their full quota of substitutes.
Fylde: Taylor; Baker, Tom Kennedy, Williams, Collins, Bond, Hardy (Dixon 74), C Hughes, Rowe (Blinkhorn 86), Bradley, Daniels (M.Hughes 66).
Other subs: Thompson, Tasdemir.
Alfreton: Spiess; Wilson, McGowan, Terry Kennedy, Heaton, Nyoni (Marshall 85), Monkhouse, Shelton, Allan (Westcarr 83), Priestley, Clayton (A Smith 85). Other subs: Gascoigne, Jordan.
Referee: Darren Strain