Alfreton’s Wembley dreams are ended

FA Carlsberg Trophy

Third round replay

Alfreton Town 1

Mansfield Town 2

Alfreton Town’s FA Trophy Wembley dream is over for another season after Mansfield Town edged through by the odd goal in three.

However, the Reds can reflect proudly on a memorable run that produced that magnificent 6-3 win at Cambridge United in the previous round and a very commendable performance in earning this replay.

The tie was played in almost ideal conditions in front of probably the biggest crowd ever to witness a midweek game at the Impact Arena, and certainly the largest gate since drawing with Macclesfield in a Saturday FA Cup tie in 2004, but the heavy conditions experienced at Field Mill on Saturday took their toll on the Reds.

Alfreton led though Matt Wilson’s goal after 16 minutes and the Stags were actually booed off at half-time by their own fans, but attacking the Alma Street end after the break Mansfield turned the tie around with a Paul Connor equaliser on the hour and a very fortunate Keigan Parker winner with just 13 minutes remaining.

The first attack of note came from the hosts with Anthony Howell forcing a corner after being played through by Liam Hearn in the tenth minute, and it was a further five minutes before Mansfield’s first foray forward with Louis Moult firing wide when teed up by Louis Briscoe.

Alfreton took a 16th minute lead after Paul Clayton had won a corner, which was taken by Laurie Wilson and flicked on at the near post by Clayton, allowing Matt Wilson to virtually pick his spot with a low drive from 12 yards to a delirious response from the Reds’ contingent.

Briscoe delivered a dangerous cross into the target area in the 19th minute but it was too sharp for his supporting colleagues, although Ashley Cain managed to retrieve the ball at the by-line only to see his pull-back intercepted by Matt Wilson.

Clayton won another corner in the 28th minute, but as Stags’ keeper Neil Collett clutched Laurie Wilson’s inswinger under the bar he instantly threw the ball out to Cain on the right, and a speedy run down the flank ended with his cross being cut out by Connor Franklin.

Clayton fired inches wide from 22 yards after cutting inside on the half-hour mark, then with the visitor’s first shot on goal in the 42nd minute Briscoe’s effort was diverted behind for a corner.

Matt Wilson again cut out a Cain cross as the interval beckoned, then in first half added time Clayton played Liam Hearn through only for the keeper to arrive on the scene just in time to hoof the ball out of the ground.

Mansfield made a much more positive start to the second half with Tom Naylor heading over from the second of successive corners in the 48th minute, then moments later Connor headed straight at Ross Turner from Moult’s cross.

There was a brilliant save by Turner from Connor in the 50th minute, which led to a hectic goalmouth scramble that the Reds survived, then five minutes after that Turner held an easier effort from Briscoe.

A terrific tackle back by Jordan Hall in the 57th minute denied Adam Murray a shooting opportunity, but three minutes later Mansfield were level from Connor’s low drive from eight yards after Connor Franklin had been caught in possession by Murray.

A minute later in response Clayton forced the ball towards goal off Collett with Gary Silk clearing the danger, then on 65 minutes Howell needed too many touches before being crowded out from Hearn’s cross.

The killer goal on 77 minutes stemmed from Murray beating Laurie Wilson to the ball and sending Connor on a powerful central run, but Turner stood his ground and blocked the shot only for Briscoe to pounce on the loose ball to feed Parker, whose shot took a very lucky deflection off Jake Moult to loop over the recovering keeper and drop just under the bar.

Mansfield were ahead for the first time in 167 minutes of this intriguing tie, but it was a huge blow to the Reds who could muster only one further notable attack with two minutes to go, when Moult’s deep cross from the right saw Clayton glance his header wide.

There was still time for an amazing clearance by Franklin, who managed to scoop Briscoe’s shot off the line while facing his own goal to prevent a bigger margin of defeat.

The reaction of Alfreton players at the final whistle was unanimously one of dejection, but the directors and fans can take pride and satisfaction in the evolution that has brought these two teams virtually on a par in less than a decade, since the Stags held the equivalent of League One status and the Reds were plying their trade in the Northern Counties East.

Match stats

Alfreton Town: Ross Turner, Jordan Hall, Connor Franklin, Matt Wilson, Darren Stride (c) (Jake Moult 72), Laurie Wilson, Anthony Howell, Anton Brown, Paul Clayton, Liam Hearn (Ian Ross 86), Nathan Arnold (Dan Dillon 82).

Substitutes not used: Ian Ross, Kallum Keane, Josh Law.

Mansfield Town: Neil Collett, Gary Silk, Tom Naylor, Rhys Day, Daniel Spence, Adam Murray (c), Tyrone Thompson, Ashley Cain, Paul Connor, Louis Moult (Keigan Parker 68), Louis Briscoe.

Substitutes not used: David Grof (GK), Mark Preece, Kyle Nix, Dan Mitchley.

Referee: Mr Stephen Ross of Boston.

Attendance: 2,131 with 869 from Mansfield.

Half-time: 1-0.

Goals: Alfreton Town - Matt Wilson (16). Mansfield Town - Paul Connor (60), Keigan Parker (77).

Cautions: Alfreton Town - Jake Moult (79). Mansfield Town - Ashley Cain (90+1, unsporting behaviour).

Reds man of the match: Matt Wilson.

Next in action

Saturday, February 12 - Blue Square Bet North - Workington AFC v ALFRETON TOWN, 3pm.

Tuesday, February 15 - Blue Square Bet North - ALFRETON TOWN v Blyth Spartans, 7.45pm.