Alfreton Town needed penalties to lift the Derbyshire Senior Cup in Tuesday night’s Final at llkeston FC’s New Manor Ground against a spirited Belper Town side.
The Nailers, plying their trade two divisions below the Reds, were the team that had looked the more likely to score throughout a pretty dire 90 minutes at Ilkeston FC’s neutral ground,
Matt Duke having to pull off three significant saves during the opening seven minutes while Lawrence Constable smashed the ball against the crossbar with nine minutes remaining.
Alfreton manager Nicky Law had only been able to name two substitutes with injuries and a trio of players ineligible, the Reds beginning the game with a brace of direct runs from Lindon Meikle, neither of which led to anything.
Duke undoubtedly kept Alfreton in contention with a trio of crucial saves that began in the fourth minute by reacting swiftly after Cliff Moyo had gifted Ben Watkiss with a sloppy pass.
That was quickly followed by a reflex save from Philip Watt’s header from a corner, before the Reds’ keeper parried Jonathan Williams’ thunderous drive from the edge of the area.
Belper keeper Danny Haystead was brought into action for the first time in the 13th minute, holding a long-range effort from Joe Leesley, then Robert Stevenson scuffed a half-chance wide at the other end.
Jamie Jackson fired high and wide after a promising run across the edge of the area in the 28th minute, then moments later Dan Bradley’s half-volley was diverted behind for a corner from a Leesley free-kick, but that was the sum total of Alfreton’s threat during the first half.
Williams went close for Belper five minutes after the interval, then on the hour a superb cross-field pass from Meikle found Bradley, but the move broke down when the Reds’ skipper failed to complete his pass to Sam Jones.
Belper rode their luck in the 72nd minute when Jones lashed a free-kick towards goal, the ball taking a double ricochet off Haystead before rebounding behind for a corner, then Duke was in action again dealing with a hopeful punt by Stevenson.
Failure to clear the ball in the 81st minute led to Constable’s shot against the framework of the goal, but Eric Graves should have done much better from the rebound than missing an open goal from with a diving header.
A late flurry of activity by Alfreton almost produced a winner, Bradley’s angled drive spotted late by Haystead, with Ryan Wilson’s corner leading to Sam Smith heading wide at the back post.
Mercifully extra-time is no longer utilised by the Derbyshire FA in the Final, so it was straight to penalties to decide the issue.
Belper were first in action with Louis Keenan setting the standard with a well-taken spot-kick that was emulated by Bradley [1-1].
Michael Armstrong fired over the bar to hand the initiative to the Reds, with Jones firing low to Haystead’s right [2-1].
Williams made no mistake with a drilled penalty, before Todd Jordan responded positively [3-2].
Kyle Bryant kept the Nailers in the hunt, but Reds’ defender Niall Heaton fired straight at the keeper [3-3].
Duke leapt to his left to punch away Alex Steadman’s spot-kick, the outcome resolved when Wilson found the net with the ultimate penalty [4-3].
ALFRETON: Duke; Moyo, Allan, Jordan, Heaton, Nyoni, Leesley, Jackson (Smith 68), Meikle (Wilson 76), Jones, Bradley.
BELPER: Haystead; Allen, Keenan, Armstrong, Parker, Watt, Stevenson (Bryant 88), Graves, Watkiss (Constable 73), Williams, Steadman.
Subs not used: Mansfield, Palmer, Taggart.
Referee: Nigel Smith (Chesterfield).