Alfreton Town extended their unbeaten run in the Blue Square Bet Premier to five games at home to Braintree Town on Saturday, but their third successive 1-1 draw was a disappointing encounter with both sides needing a penalty to score.
Adam Quinn’s injury allowed skipper Darran Kempson to return to the heart of the defence after being sidelined for two games himself, otherwise the remaining ten players were unchanged for their fifth start since the defeat at Dartford at the beginning of September.
Leigh Franks saw his back post header held by visiting keeper Dan Naisbitt after just 75 seconds, then on six minutes Nathan Arnold directed his diving header wide from a Dan Bradley pass.
However Alfreton’s promising start to the game was disrupted by an early injury to midfielder Anton Brown, who limped off to be replaced by Simon Russell in the ninth minute.
Naisbitt then had to tip over Josh Law’s central free-kick from 25 yards before play was interrupted further by a clash of heads between Dan Meadows and Sam Habergham in the 21st minute.
Habergham may have still been suffering the effects after lengthy treatment when he headed Reds’ keeper Jon Stewart’s long punt into the path of Anthony Wilson, but the striker’s stretching header was blocked superbly by Naisbitt.
Connor Franklin volleyed over from 16 yards after Franks’ long throw had caused confusion in the Braintree area in the 30th minute, then eight minutes later Russell curled a shot around the far post after Arnold had teed him up from a Meadows pass.
Alfreton took a 44th minute lead when Matt Paine pushed Wilson in the back in receipt of Russell’s right flank cross, Bradley taking responsibility once again from the penalty spot to claim his fourth goal from as many games when he scored low to the keeper’s right.
Stewart had to be alert four minutes into the second half when Sean Marks was played through by Daniel Holman, then Franks headed over for the Reds from a Law corner.
Paine headed wide for Braintree from a Daniel Sparkes free-kick, then in response Meadows headed wide after initially seeing his effort blocked by Paine.
Stewart comfortably held a Dean Wells header on 67 minutes, but seven minutes later the game was all square after Theo Streete had impeded Marks and Kenny Davis found the corner of the net from the second penalty award of the afternoon.
A double substitution with 11 minutes remaining bolstered Alfreton’s attack with the introduction of Paul Clayton and Ben Tomlinson, the pair immediately combining before the latter fired wide.
Davis then saw his shot blocked inadvertently by visiting colleague Marks, before Wells’ drive from the loose ball was saved by Stewart.
It needed a tremendous tackle by Franklin to prevent a goal as James Mulley was sent through in the 84th minute, then back at the other end Tomlinson headed wide from another Clayton cross.
Stewart did well to parry an angled Pat O’Connor shot with two minutes left on the clock, the keeper then having to parry Marks’ header from a Josh Dawkin corner.