It was a very disappointing night for Alfreton Town when they visited local rivals Ilkeston FC on Tuesday night in the semi-final of the Derbyshire Senior Cup and lost 2-0.
Special permission had been granted by the Derbyshire Football Association for Ben Gathercole to play for the Reds, the young Nottingham Forest goalkeeper drafted in with Jordan Pickford on duty for England u19s and Phil Barnes still injured.
Also, both teams agreed to waive extra-time should it have been needed, and, had the scores been level at 90 minutes, the tie would have been settled immediately by penalties.
Early indications were that Alfreton were going to sweep aside the Robins with home keeper Chris Martin having to save Steven Hewitt’s third minute shot before just beating Ben Tomlinson to a through-ball on the edge of the area.
Josh Law struck the crossbar in the sixth minute from a venomous free-kick, then a shot from 16 yards by Arnold was held by Martin.
However, Alfreton fell behind to Ilkeston’s first attack in the 12th minute when Martin’s long clearance bounced in front of Gathercole, with Gary Ricketts allowed to tee up Aaron Hooton for a low angled drive into the far corner of the net.
The Reds responded positively and Connor Franklin’s cross from the left led to Scott Boden’s neat turn at the near post before Martin gathered. Then, six minutes later, Arnold chipped the ball against the bar from the edge of the area.
Daniel Meadows fired in a curler from 16 yards that Martin again held in the 22nd minute, but two minutes later Ilkeston’s second foray of the game produced their second goal.
This time, a Jack Watts corner caused confusion in the box and Hooton’s eventual shot took a massive deflection to deceive Gathercole on its way into the net.
Probably the best move of the game, 11 minutes before the break, saw Arnold spray the ball wide left to Boden, whose cross skimmed Ben Tomlinson’s forehead at the back post, then Boden rolled the ball across the goal when played through by Hewitt.
Dan Partridge’s shot was diverted for a corner in the 49th minute, then 14 minutes later Meadows suddenly found himself with only Martin to beat after Boden and Tomlinson had combined on the left, but no shot materialised.
Hewitt never gave up the cause and earned a corner at the back post from Paul Clayton’s 71st minute cross, then Ricketts’s run down the right flank for the hosts led to Hooton’s hat-trick bid being blocked by Leigh Franks.
Five minutes from time, James Reid was allowed to chase his own defensive header all the way to Alfreton’s area before seeing Rickett’s header lack power, then on 89 minutes Clayton’s back-heel from Ashley Worsfold’s cross was comfortably held by Martin.