Alfreton Town were desperately unlucky to lose their fourth successive home game in the Vanarama National League North on Tuesday night, after a much improved and spirited performance against high-flying AFC Fylde.
Having taken a seventh minute lead the Reds were by far the better side until Fylde finally threatened in the last quarter of the game, taking the points in a 2-1 win with the simplest of goals following Alfreton attacks.
Young debutant defender Brad McGowan replaced Sam Berry at the heart of the defence, with Sam Jones returning to midfield at the expense of Andi Thanoj.
The weather and playing surface were much better than either had been at Lowestoft at the weekend, Lindon Meikle sending Joe Ironside through in the opening 30 seconds only for keeper Ben Hinchcliffe to save.
Then on five minutes Dan Bradley forced the Fylde keeper to tip over his stinging drive after Meikle had latched on to a McGowan clearance.
Two minutes later Bradley’s surging run down the left, after being presented with a poor kick from Hinchcliffe, led to his low angled drive finding the corner of the net to put the Reds ahead.
The visitors’ first real chance saw Danny Rowe’s 16th minute free-kick go close, then five minutes later a deep Ironside cross was clutched under pressure at his near post by Hinchcliffe.
Jones had a free-kick saved before Reds’ keeper Matt Duke was finally needed to make a save after Matty Hughes’ through-ball had caused confusion at the back.
On the stroke of half-time Duke was sold short by a Todd Jordan back-pass, managing to force the ball behind despite being injured in a challenge with Rowe, the eventual corner after treatment reaching Dion Charles, whose shot was blocked by Ironside.
Sub keeper Nick Draper, who had not figured for the Reds since the second game of the season, was brought on for the second half and was forced into an early touch as he stretched to palm away a driven cross from Charles.
Sam Finley scooped a decent chance wide as Fylde came more into the game, but Stefan Galinski almost doubled Alfreton’s lead on 61 minutes with a piledriver of a shot from 20 yards that Hinchcliffe held.
A long throw from Niall Heaton led to Ironside’s shot being blocked and Jamie Jackson’s follow-up diverted behind, but following the corner Fylde swept upfield through Hughes whose cross was thumped past Draper by James Hardy from the edge of the area for a shock equaliser.
McGowan’s diving header flashed wide from a Meikle corner, then in the 77th minute Ironside sent Jackson to the bye-line with disastrous consequences, his cross booted clear by the heavily masked Richie Baker for Hughes to sprint clear and plant the ball past Draper for the winning goal.
Alfreton tried hard to restore parity but were clearly shell-shocked after such a promising attacking performance, McGowan eventually finding the back of the net one minute from time only to be penalised for a foul on Hinchcliffe.
ALFRETON: Duke (Draper HT), Galinski, McGowan, Allan, Heaton, Jordan, Meikle, Jones (Johnston 81), Bradley (Thanoj 81), Jackson, Ironside. Subs not used: Wilson, Smith.