Clayton at the double

Paul Clayton powers in a header.
Paul Clayton powers in a header.

Two goals from Paul Clayton in a seven-minute spell early in the second half were enough for Alfreton Town to edge 2-1 past a resilient Dartford side destined for their ninth successive Skrill Premier defeat.

The Reds climbed up to an incredible fourth spot with their ninth home win of the season - a far cry from their opening day 1-0 defeat at Dartford, where Clayton had been denied a perfectly good looking goal for offside.

Manager Nicky Law started with the side that had finished so strongly at Kidderminster the previous week, but was forced to make changes after Connor Franklin was the victim of a tackle by Lee Noble in the 33rd minute. Noble was sent off with Franklin nursing a deep cut above the left eye that needed stitches by the club doctor and a precautionary trip to hospital.

Dartford were leading at this stage thanks to a 16th minute penalty converted by skipper Elliot Bradbrook after Darran Kempson had tripped Danny Harris, Reds’ keeper Jon Worsnop almost managing to keep it out after signing a permanent deal in midweek following his short-term loan from FC United of Manchester.

The visitors from Kent played much better than their lowly position might indicate, and Dave Martin’s third minute cross caused confusion with Michael Wylde’s clearance flooring Kempson before rebounding behind for a corner.

As the Reds picked up the pace Nick Fenton sent Tom Shaw down the right, with his cross leading to Dan Bradley’s angled drive evading the crossbar by inches, then Wood’s shot from 30 yards was turned behind by Julian. Wood was enjoying his midfield role and sent another effort over from similar distance in the 37th minute, then three minutes later Clayton headed wide from 12 yards from a Lathaniel Rowe-Turner cross.

A feature of the game was the accuracy of Bradley’s crosses, particularly in the second half, and Julian had to be alert when Kenny Clark sliced one such delivery towards his own goal, then another deep Bradley cross produced the equaliser on 53 minutes.

Clayton met it at the near post to fire into the roof of the net from close range, but Dartford responded immediately with Harris’s shot saved by Worsnop whilst Adam Birchall scooped over from a decent position following a break from a John McGrath error.