Alfreton Town were held to a draw at home to Welling United on Saturday, despite the visitors being reduced to ten men just 14 minutes into their crucial Vanarama Conference survival game.
Harry Osborne was sent off for the visitors when he slipped amd fell on the ball as Karl Hawley ran on to a John Johnston pass and was about to fire at goal, the referee immediately pointing to the spot before deciding to produce a somewhat harsh red card for deliberate hand ball.
However the Reds were unable to take advantage of this early boost, although Dan Bradley did ensure that the penalty was converted in style, and allowed Welling to regroup to the extent that the South-East London outfit led 2-1 by the 57th minute.
The outcome now means that Alfreton must not lose their final game at Bristol Rovers in their toughest challenge of the season, otherwise they will be relegated regardless of Welling’s result against Southport.
And even victory against Rovers, themselves needing a win to prevent Barnet from taking the title, in front of a sell-out crowd at the Memorial Ground would not be enough to save Alfreton if Welling win their final game.
Manager Nicky Law once again made changes from the Eastleigh defeat, the key absentee being the suspended Bradley Wood, the Reds beginning positively in front of a bumper crowd, inflated by the “pay what you want” entrance fee on a sunny afternoon.
Bradley’s central run in the eighth minute ended with his overhit pass to Hawley nestling in keeper Michael McEntegart’s arms, then after Dominic Vose had won a corner for Welling Tom Flynn confidently punched the delivery clear.
Twelve minutes after taking the lead Johnston went close to adding a second with a difficult attempt from a tight angle, then Joe lronside’s header was held by the keeper on the half hour mark.
A low drive from Niall Heaton, after cutting in from the left, was held comfortably by McEntegart before Tom Shaw drilled a shot from 18 yards inches over the crossbar.
Hawley’s 42nd minute cross from the left brushed Johnston’s head at the far post, but Alfreton were visibly stunned by Welling’s leveller on the stroke of half-time, Duane Courtney’s poor clearance punished when Sam Corne pounced, Jake Gallagher chipped the ball into the area and Ross Lafayette took the ball around Flynn to score after controlling it with his chest.
Flynn was soon in action after the break, leaping to his left to divert a Vose shot, then the same combination saw the Reds’ keeper again save at his near post.
However Flynn was left stranded 12 minutes into the second half when a deep free-kick from Vose was headed across goal by Sam Berry for Chris Bush to stab over the line.
Jimmy Phillips and Callum Howe both went close as Alfreton responded, then sub Massiah McDonald gave the hosts hope 20 minutes from time, the Montserrat international tucking Johnston’s driven cross inside the back post from ten yards barely two minutes after leaving the bench.
Law ensured that all-out attack was forthcoming if his side were to gain the necessary three points, but frustratingly there were few clear chances, Shaw’s 25 yard free-kick zipping directly to McEntegart, while Phillips’s volley from just outside the area needed to be tipped over in the 81st minute.
Jake Speight shot tamely when put through by Shaw, and inevitably with so many bodies commited to attacking Alfreton were exposed at the back, Lafayette looking certain to score five minutes from time only to be denied by Flynn’s desperate block.
Further breaks by Welling took the sting out of Alfreton’s efforts, Ben Jefford dragging a good chance across goal before Flynn again excelled with a save from Gallagher.
ALFRETON: Flynn; Graham [Phillips 58], Courtney, Rowe-Turner, Heaton, Howe, Johnston (Speight 82), Shaw, Bradley, Hawley, Ironside (McDonald 68). Subs not used: Howell, Leesley.