Alfreton Town fell to a controversial late penalty at Nuneaton Town on Tuesday night as they conceded their second Blue Square Bet Premier double of the season.
All the action was concentrated into the final ten minutes of a bitterly cold night in North Warwickshire, with barely a noteworthy attempt by either side prior to the 80th minute, in the most dire of encounters imaginable.
It was a snap shot from Paul Clayton that was only thwarted by a save from home keeper Lee Burge that triggered the late flurry, then Louie Soares embarked on a run that ended with his cross clipping Gareth Dean’s heels before being cleared.
Unfortunately, this also kickstarted Nuneaton’s aspirations and an 83rd minute Connor Taylor corner was whacked against the crossbar by James Dance’s near post header.
Ben Tomlinson then drove hard and low from eight yards to bring a reflex save from Burge, but, with around 90 seconds of normal time remaining, the hope of at least a point evaporated when the referee controversially adjudged Josh Law to have impeded Wesley York.
Protestations fell on deaf ears and Dance hammered the penalty low past Reds’ keeper Phil Barnes to trigger memories of a similar outcome seven years earlier when Nuneaton Borough, as they were then known, won 1-0 with a last minute penalty in an ugly game that had seen Mark Hume sent off as a mass brawl ensued.
Far too late, Alfreton threw everything at Nuneaton as the fourth official indicated four minutes of added time, both Soares and Dan Bradley seeing shots from the edge of the area clip defenders and drift out for innocuous corners.
Then, right at the end, Tomlinson would have scored with a little more time to steady himself eight yards out, but he could only snatch his shot wide and the final whistle soon followed.
The highlights of a mind-numbing first half were a sixth minute shot from Nathan Arnold that Burge fumbled and crosses from Aaron Phillips and former Alfreton loanee Louis Moult that flashed through the Reds’ goalmouth without anyone looking likely to make contact.
Even a shot on 43 minutes from Simon Forsdick was so weak that Barnes virtually had to wait for it to trickle into his custody, and even after the break long periods of inactivity left reporters scratching their heads in an attempt to fill the void. There was certainly no inspiration forthcoming on the pitch.