Alfreton Town were left with an uphill task at the Impact Arena on Saturday after referee Ross Joyce sent off defender Connor Franklin in the seventh minute of their clash with Lincoln City.
What looked no worse than a 50-50 tackle as both Franklin and Dan Gray challenged on the halfway line was interpreted by the official as dangerous play, so the Reds were forced to complete the remaining 83 minutes with ten men.
The visitors pressed first with Jamie Taylor firing across goal from their second corner in as many minutes, then Taylor’s header from Craig Hobson’s fifth minute cross was gathered at the second attempt by Jordan Pickford.
The busy Taylor saw his low drive from Nat Brown’s 17th minute cross held by the Reds’ keeper, then Pickford had to punch clear a teasing Hobson throw under pressure.
Leigh Franks’s shy at goal on the half hour mark was held by Imps’ keeper Paul Farman, then Lincoln’s Brown had to clear successive shots from Louie Soares and Steven Hewitt off the line.
Pickford held Adam Smith’s 37th minute driven cross before Ben Tomlinson’s free-kick four minutes later was held and quickly released for a deadly attack by Farman, with Hobson finding the top corner of the net from 16 yards to give Lincoln the lead after Taylor had helped the ball on.
Deep into first half added time Franks was pushed in the back as he leapt to reach Hewitt’s corner, and as penalty appeals were being waved aside Darran Kempson thumped the ball against the crossbar from ten yards from Anton Brown’s cross.
Kempson had to clear off the line from Taylor four minutes after the break, then three minutes later at the other end Tomlinson embarked on a byline run before seeing his angled drive smothered by Farman.
Smith cut in from the left before being thwarted by Pickford, then Smith’s 58th minute by-line cross led to Alan Power firing over from the edge of the area.
Soares scuffed wide after a promising run had taken him to the edge of the Lincoln area, then Taylor again found Pickford in defiant mood as the keeper saved from ten yards.
12 minutes from time Vadaine Oliver looked certain to score when put through by Taylor, who then ran in to Kempson as the Reds’ skipper again cleared off the line.
Pickford saved yet again from Taylor in the 80th minute but he was left stranded 60 seconds later as Kempson’s back header was intercepted by Oliver, who was left with an open goal after scooping the ball over the keeper.
Soares’s attempt from 25 yards was turned behind at full stretch by Farman with three minutes to go, then Theo Streete fired wide from 25 yards as Lincoln remained out of reach.
ALFRETON: Pickford; Franks, Quinn, Kempson, Franklin, Streete, Brown, Soares, Hewitt [Meadows 54], Tomlinson [Boden 76], Clayton [Arnold 54]. other subs: Bradley, Rose. Att: 1189 [inc. 456 from Lincoln]