Alfreton Town had to make do with second best in the return fixture on New Year’s Day against Mansfield, after bathing in the glory of their Boxing Day 2-1 win at Field Mill.
Mansfield Town had enough up their sleeve to win 3-0 with a degree of comfort at the Impact Arena, but the Reds were left to wonder what the outcome might have been had they been awarded a 56th minute penalty, just moments before the crucial second goal.
Nathan Arnold had two early chances as Alfreton attempted to make the early running, his first effort just wide from 20 yards from Josh Law’s seventh minute through-ball, followed four minutes later by an angled drive that Stags’ keeper Alan Marriott did well to save at his near post.
However, three wildly wide shots from Chris Clements and an equally off-target effort from Adam Murray could not disguise the fact that Mansfield were making significant and regular inroads as the Reds defended a strong wind.
Matt Green’s 30th minute pull-back saw Colin Daniel’s low drive diverted behind for a corner off Law, then keeper Phil Barnes held a shot from the edge of the area by Daniel.
Paul Clayton failed to find the net after creating space 12 yards out from Law’s intuitive pass and, two minutes before the break, the visitors edged in front from a left-wing corner that was helped on by John Dempster for Exodus Geohaghon to head home from close range at the back post.
Controversy arose 11 minutes into the second half when Ross Killock sent Clayton through on goal, to be apparently brought down by the keeper, but the referee chose to brandish a yellow card at the striker for diving and, to make matters worse, Mansfield broke upfield from the free-kick to score.
Barnes initially saved Green’s close range shot with his chest, but after the ball had been directed across the face of goal and clipped Killock’s heel on the way Daniel was left with a simple tap-in at the far post.
Ben Tomlinson’s effort from wide left was held by Marriott on 61 minutes, then a cross by Clements at the other end saw Dempster denied by Barnes’s reflex save, then on 67 minutes former Red Anthony Howell had his header cleared off the line by Adam Quinn.
A 72nd minute free-kick from Clements was helped on its way into the net by Dempster, who claimed the third goal that put this Blue Square Bet Premier encounter well out of Alfreton’s reach.
Misses at either end by Tomlinson and Howell preceded Green’s 82nd minute shot that Barnes repelled with his legs, then Darran Kempson blocked from Green after being put through by Lindon Meikle.
It was to be Kempson’s last action as he withdrew through injury and the Reds had to play out the remaining time with ten men as all three substitutes had been employed.
Ironically, Alfreton were able to engineer two decent chances in added time with Daniel Meadows seeing his shot blocked by Geohaghon before Daniel Emerton’s low drive was parried by Marriott, with the keeper smothering the loose ball as Tomlinson pounced.
Alfreton: Barnes; Law, Quinn, Kempson, Killock, Russell [Meadows 64], Brown, Bradley [Emerton 80], Arnold, Clayton [Taylor 64], Tomlinson.
other subs: Streete, Wilson.
Att: 1537 [inc. 756 from Mansfield]