Alfreton Town’s opening game of the new season saw them snatch a draw late in the game, despite having been reduced to nine men and facing an impossible task.
Bradford Park Avenue had cruised into a two-goal lead by the 31st minute, with Michael Potts grabbing both in similar style, his long unchecked runs resulting in an 18th minute 25 yard shot nestling in the corner of Nick Draper’s net before firing low past the Reds’ exposed keeper from slightly closer range 13 minutes later.
Andi Thanoj gave Alfreton’s following some hope after 64 minutes when he floated a free-kick directly into the net from 22 yards, then after Sam Berry had been given a straight red for a professional foul on James Walshaw ten minutes later Tom Allan received a second yellow three minutes from time.
The Reds had not exactly caught the eye, despite three early chances before Bradford settled into the game, John Johnston trying to lob Jon Stewart when put through by Todd Jordan after just 25 seconds, but the former Alfreton keeper clutched the ball.
Johnston, whose inclusion in the starting line-up had been something of a surprise after pulling up with a hamstring injury against Notts. County just three weeks earlier, then drew a diving fingertip save from Stewart on five minutes with Allan then stabbing the ball wide from close range as Thanoj delivered the ensuing corner.
Draper needed to save Simon Ainge’s 26th minute downward header from an Alex Pursehouse corner, then right at the end of the first half Johnston’s snap-shot was held by Stewart whilst at the other end Chib Chilaka fired over after another menacing run by Potts.
The turning point of the game came midway between the two dismissals, when Ainge headed against the upright from six yards following a Richard Marshall corner, the impossible achieved when Joe Leesley sent Joe lronside to the by-line and Pursehouse clumsily brought the striker down.
lronside was determined to regain his scoring form and took the penalty himself, four minutes into added time, to plant the ball firmly past Stewart.
As the players left the pitch a prolonged skirmish ensued, with Dan Bradley and Avenue’s Luke Dean apparently red-carded, despite the fact that the Alfreton skipper had not even figured in the game after a hamstring tweak in the warm-up.
ALFRETON: Draper; Moyo (Paling 56 mins), Allan, Berry, Heaton (Leesley 56 mins), Jordan, Jones, Thanoj, Wilson, lronside, Johnston (Jackson 45 mins).
Subs not used: Smith, Galinski.