Alfreton Town’s vitally important 1-0 win at Nuneaton Town on Saturday hoisted them to within three points of Vanarama Conference safety, although the game itself was painfully dull.
Bradley Wood secured the victory with a 15th minute penalty after John Johnston had been brought down by former Reds’ defender Connor Franklin.
Manager Nicky Law opted to retain Karl Hawley as the sole front runner, whilst bringing Anthony Howell back in place of Nathan Hicks, with club skipper Duane Courtney making way for a fit again Wood.
Nuneaton were unable to break down a solid defensive performance by Alfreton on a bitterly cold afternoon in the northern extremity of Warwickshire, despite a late surge of pressure that the Reds withstood.
The first action of a tentative start saw Franklin fire from 20 yards in the eighth minute with Sam Johnson barely troubled, but five minutes later the Reds’ keeper fumbled a James Armson shot before quickly recovering.
The breakthrough came with Alfreton’s first attack of any description, Tom Shaw picking out Johnston on the right for a darting run that lured Franklin into tripping him in the area, Wood converting the spot-kick confidently for his third goal of the season, although this was his first in the League.
All the action at this stage appeared to be revolving around Franklin, with a diving header held by Johnson in the 20th minute before he almost smashed Lathaniel Rowe-Turner’s by-line cross into his own net five minutes later.
Anton Brown had spent seven successful seasons with Alfreton and had shaken hands with numerous Reds’ fans before the game, so it was perhaps fitting that the midfielder should cause most of the problems that Nuneaton could muster, but two headers in the 36th minute drifted wide.
Johnson held a deep Marcel Barrington cross four minutes later, then the keeper dealt with a Lee Fowler free-kick after Dan Bradley had fouled Ben Starosta just outside the area.
Johnston fired meekly at home keeper Christian Dibble after a threatening run, then in first half added time the winger fired over from 15 yards after Hawley’s cross had been partially intercepted by Starosta.
Four minutes after the break Hawley also missed the target from a similar distance, then ten minutes later Tom Davies glanced a header wide from a Shaw corner.
Adam Dawson squandered a great chance for a Nuneaton leveller in the 65th minute, then a neat move involving Hawley and Johnston led to Wood’s effort from 22 yards being held.
Shaw had to clear another Brown header off the line in the 74th minute, with Johnson parrying Dawson’s follow-up at the near post.
Johnston embarked on a run down the right seven minutes from time, but could have passed to Hawley instead of seeing his shot blocked, then Hawley’s shy from 25 yards was held by Dibble.
Brown never stopped trying to put one over his former club, but his 85th minute diving header from a Fowler free-kick was held by Johnson, then in the fifth minute of stoppage time Bradley’s run down the right led to Hawley’s shot being blocked by Anthony Charles.
ALFRETON TOWN: Johnson; Byrne, Graham, Davies, Rowe-Turner, Bradley, Wood, Shaw, Howell, Johnston, Hawley. Subs not used: Courtney, Clayton, Sheridan, Keane, Lamb.