Blue Square Bet North
Gloucester City 2
Alfreton Town 1
AN unscheduled defeat at Cheltenham Town’s Whaddon Road stadium at the hands of tenants Gloucester City put the champagne on hold last Saturday.
However, with AFC Telford United only drawing at Hinckley little ground was lost by Alfreton Town in their quest for the Blue Square Bet North title, with the target having been reduced to two points from the remaining four games.
A poor playing surface and a very defensive approach by City clearly stifled the Reds, who found themselves two goals adrift at the interval after the hosts had mustered just three first half attacks.
The first 30 minutes saw Alfreton determinedly attempt to break down Gloucester’s bank of defenders, with Matt Rose having to head clear in the 12th minute as Aden Flint’s punt upfield homed in on Paul Clayton.
Moments later Rose had to head behind from Clayton, then the Reds’ striker went desperately close from eight yards from Nathan Arnold’s cross on 17 minutes, the pressure mounting as keeper Kevin Sawyer scampered out to beat Liam Hearn in a race to receive another Arnold pass.
Hearn fired tamely at the keeper in receipt of a ball from Anthony Howell, then on 24 minutes Neil Mustoe had to clear a Matt Wilson header off the line from a Laurie Wilson corner.
Hearn then sent an angled drive over and a teasing Connor Franklin cross flew between Matt Wilson, Clayton and Hearn as they lined up in the box, before Hearn fired across the face of goal from a Flint cross.
Gloucester though took a 32nd minute lead with their first attack of note, loan striker Darren Edwards heading home from 12 yards from a deep cross by Sam Malsom, the midfielder on loan from Hereford United.
Alfreton’s frustration was compounded five minutes later when Josh Law was adjudged to have fouled Malsom in what appeared at worse to be a shoulder charge, Chris Mackenzie being sent the wrong way as Edwards slotted home the ensuing penalty.
As the interval beckoned Flint had to head clear from an awkward Malsom free-kick, then five minutes into the second half Mustoe almost headed into his own net and from Laurie Wilson’s corner Flint powered a header against the crossbar.
Anthony Wilson won a corner three minutes later that saw Clayton go close with a back-post header, then on the hour Alfreton were at last rewarded with a goal when Hearn curled the ball around the rack of defenders from the edge of the area after good work by Matt Wilson.
Anthony Wilson then glanced a header wide from an Ian Ross free-kick, then Wilson was again prominent as he set up Hearn in the 68th minute for a shot from 15 yards that looked destined to be the equaliser until it smacked against the upright.
As City began to press forward occasionally Mike Symons caused problems with a cross from the right that led to Theo Streete having to clear from Darren Mullings on 71 minutes, then Hearn was fouled by Rose right on the edge of the area six minutes later with only a free-kick the outcome.
Mackenzie comfortably held Edwards’ by-line cross with colleagues screaming for the pull-back, and at the other end Hearn fired inches over after a trademark jink into the area, the game ending with Streete’s header over from a Ross delivery.
Gloucester City - Kevin Sawyer, Neil Mustoe (Mike Symons 64) Tom Parrinello, Matt Coupe, Tom Evans, Matt Rose, Darren Mullings, Tom Webb, Darren Edwards, Sam Malsom (Adam Mann 72) Tyler Weir (Mike Tambling 90)
Sub not used: George Lloyd (only four named).
Alfreton Town - Chris Mackenzie, Josh Law, Connor Franklin, Aden Flint, Theo Streete, Laurie Wilson (Ian Ross 69), Anthony Howell, Matt Wilson, Paul Clayton (Daryl Clare 75), Liam Hearn, Nathan Arnold (Anthony Wilson 51).
Subs not used: Anton Brown, Nathan Jarman.
Referee: Danny Gratton of Stone (Staffs).
Booking: Gloucester City - Matt Rose (77, foul on Liam Hearn).
Goals - Gloucester City - Darren Edwards (32 and 37 (penalty)). Alfreton Town - Liam Hearn 60.
Reds man of the match: Aden Flint.