FA Trophy, third round
Mansfield Town 1
Alfreton Town 1
Alfreton Town em-erged from their massive third round FA Trophy tie at Mansfield Town last Saturday with their heads held high after an exhausting battle on the Field Mill mudbath.
Both sides had a man sent off but fought out an entertaining tie despite high winds and strength-sapping, continuous rain.
Desperately short of key players with Aden Flint departed, Josh Law injured, Anthony Howell suspended and regular keeper Paddy Gamble ill Alfreton did particularly well to maintain their unbeaten away record which was extended to an incredible ten games, and the Reds certainly earned a second crack at the tie despite an ever-increasing backlog of league fixtures.
The significant away support with 928 in the allocated end, and several other Reds’ fans dotted around the ground, helped Mansfield to record their highest gate of the season, and the volume of noise when former Stag Nathan Arnold gave Alfreton the lead in the second minute of first-half added time was deafening.
The goal stemmed from Paul Clayton’s determination in forcing the ball out to Arnold on the right, and his low drive was enough to beat keeper Neil Collett from a very tight angle.
Mansfield though were on level terms just 90 seconds into the second half when Ashley Cain’s cross allowed Paul Connor to head home off the underside of the crossbar from barely a yard out.
Alfreton had been given an encouraging boost as early as the 13th minute when Clayton’s sudden injection of pace left him one-on-one with the keeper, but he was hauled down by Kevin Sandwith just outside the area and the Stags’ defender was duly sent off, the move stemming from Ross Turner’s long flicked-on clearance.
Both sides were down to ten men by the 41st minute though when Stride was harshly dismissed for bringing down Connor wide left, with defenders better placed to cover than had been the case with Sandwith.
The first attack of the tie saw Arnold win a corner for the Reds after just 90 seconds, but Stride glanced his header well wide from Laurie Wilson’s flag-kick, then on seven minutes Ian Ross sent Arnold through only for his blocked shot to inadvertently set up a dangerous Mansfield sortie.
Jake Moult’s younger brother Louis missed the chance on his debut for the hosts, opting to chip over the bar when with hindsight it may have been easier to have taken the ball around Ross Turner, who was making only his second start of the season in goal for Alfreton.
Arnold side-footed over a decent 16th minute opportunity after Connor Franklin had sent Liam Hearn away down the left flank, then back at the other end five minutes later Connor blazed high and wide from 18 yards.
Hearn dispossessed Gary Silk after the full-back had slipped on the atrocious pitch in the 28th minute, crossing for Clayton to fire in a shot that Collett stopped with his legs, then two minutes later Clayton headed over from a driven Jordan Hall cross.
A tasty cross from Cain saw former Reds’ loanee Tom Naylor - on for the sacrificed Louis Briscoe - just fail to make contact at full stretch in front of goal in the 31st minute, then as the game swung yet again Silk just managed to insert a vital touch as Laurie Wilson’s cross picked out Hearn seven minutes later.
Between Stride’s dismissal and Arnold’s goal Hearn had a strong angled drive scrambled behind for a corner by the keeper, who had been by far the busier with Turner not having a single shot to save, despite all those chances created by the Stags.
A much quieter second half saw both teams slipping and sliding as conditions deteriorated further, this typified by Hearn grinding to a halt from Arnold’s pass seconds before Connor’s equaliser.
At last Turner had something to do with 61 minutes on the clock, superbly tipping over from the ever-menacing Connor after a long central run at goal, then in a similar move in response moments later Hearn again found himself bogged down before being crowded out.
Ross was fortunate not to pick up a second yellow card as Connor surged past him on another run in the 64th minute, but the referee played advantage and his eventual shot was turned behind by Matt Wilson.
Collett had to react quickly as Clayton’s header sent Hearn through with four minutes to go, then in the third minute of stoppage time Hearn returned the compliment but Clayton’s stifled shot posed no threat.
Mansfield Town: Neil collett, Gary Silk, Kevin Sandwith, Steve Foster, Louis Briscoe (Tom Naylor 19), Tyrone Thompson, Louis Moult (Keigan Parker 84), Paul Stonehouse, Paul Connor, Ashley Cain, Adam Murray (c).
Substitutes not used: David Grof (GK), Kyle Nix, Danny Mitchley.
Alfreton Town: 1 Ross Turner, 2 Jordan Hall (Dan Dillon 82), 3 Connor Franklin, 4 Matt Wilson, 5 Darren Stride (c), 6 Ian Ross (Jake Moult 65), 7 Laurie Wilson, 8 Anton Brown, 9 Paul Clayton, 10 Liam Hearn, 11 Nathan Arnold.
Substitutes not used: Kallum Keane, Josh Law.
Referee: Mark Heywood of Cheshire. Attendance: 3,408 (928 from Alfreton).
Goals: Mansfield Town - Paul Connor (47). Alfreton Town - Nathan Arnold (45+2).
Cautions: Mansfield Town - TomNaylor (83, foul on Jake Moult). Alfreton Town - Matt Wilson (49, foul on Paul Connor); Ian Ross (obstruction 57); .
Sent off: Mansfield Town - Kevin Sandwith (pro foul on Paul Clayton 13). Alfreton Town - Darren Stride (pro foul on Paul Connor, 41).
Reds man of the match: Nathan Arnold.