Despite a much improved performance Alfreton Town bowed out of the FA.Trophy at their entry stage on Saturday after they were beaten 2-0 at Nuneaton Town.
It was the Reds’ second visit to Liberty Way within three weeks, having lost by the same score to the National League North leaders on their previous trip to Warwickshire.
Manager Nicky Law made four changes from the side that had lost at home to Boston United seven days earlier, Joe lronside recalled to the attack alongside Jamie Jackson, whilst Tom Allan and Todd Jordan also returned.
Jordan Robertson played a much deeper role than normal, with Ryan Wilson, Andi Thanoj, John Johnston and Sam Smith all reverting to the bench.
The big difference between the two games was that Alfreton enjoyed a large percentage of play and possession this time around, without being able to put the ball past debutant home keeper Zeus De La Paz.
Unfortunately for the Reds two critical decisions cost them the tie and a £4,000 purse, referee Jonathan Hunt deciding that Jordan’s 58th minute tackle on Kabonga Tshimanga warranted a penalty, then in added time keeper Matt Duke was left stranded from a back-pass well wide of his goal to leave Callum Chettle with a free shot.
Pouring rain, torrential at times, coupled with a howling gale, made conditions difficult, although the pitch appeared to hold up well under the circumstances.
On the offensive early Alfreton had two headers from defender Stefan Galinski go close before David Morgan fired wide for the hosts in the 20th minute.
De La Paz needed to save from Robertson shortly afterwards from a Sam Jones cross, then Galinski’s delivery into the box eluded the outstretched lunges from both lronside and Jones.
Duke had to hurriedly hack the ball into touch when Niall Heaton’s 32nd minute back-pass lacked enough pace with Robert Duffy homing in, then the Reds’ keeper punched away an angled Duffy header before Alfreton regained their composure.
Jackson won a 42nd minute corner that led to Galinski powering over a free header from close range, then a promising move petered out with Jones wildly blasting the ball high and wide.
Joe Leesley was next to miss the target seven minutes after the break, with Nuneaton then taking their controversial lead from Duffy’s spot-kick.
Robertson and Galinski both tested De La Paz before Alfreton’s best chance of the game arrived in the 82nd minute, a Thanoj free-kick leading to Galinski’s stooping header from six yards rebounding off the foot of the post.
Galinski was determined to make his mark on the tie and having won a follow-up corner with a towering header then directed a similar delivery over the crossbar.
Johnston had a shot blocked in the 88th minute after Jones had laid off a Heaton throw-in, then Jack Lane somehow scooped a Jordan shot off the line following another Thanoj free-kick.
The Reds were sunk without trace when Duke left his goal exposed from a Heaton back-pass, Marlon Harewood pulling the ball back from the bye-line and Chettle could not miss from close range.
ALFRETON: Duke; Moyo, Galinski, Allan, Heaton, Jordan, Jones, Leesley, Robertson (Thanoj 79), Jackson, lronside (Johnston 73). Subs not used: Smith, Wilson, Draper.