For the second time in three games, Alfreton Town rattled four goals past title contenders to record memorable victories, this time in front of the TV cameras at the Impact Arena on Friday night.
Having dumped Wrexham out of the FA Cup six days earlier by 4-2, the Reds made leaders Newport County AFC and the rest of the nation take notice that they are more than capable of survival in the Blue Square Bet Premier with a pulsating victory by the odd goal in seven.
With top scorers Ben Tomlinson and Dan Bradley recalled after missing the midweek defeat at Gateshead through suspension, Alfreton went immediately on a sustained onslaught that merited their two-goal lead inside 17 minutes.
Nathan Arnold shook off the memories of missed chances that have dogged him all season to coolly slot the ball low past Newport keeper Lenny Pidgeley from 16 yards in the sixth minute, having latched on to the sweetest of passes from Tomlinson.
Then, nine minutes later, Leigh Franks’s towering header at the back post from a Josh Law corner allowed Paul Clayton to hook home from close range and have the TV pundits raving about the home side.
Tomlinson dragged a good chance wide from a Franks’s through-ball before Newport mustered their first decisive attack at the midpoint of the first half, which ended with Aaron O’Connor firing across the face of goal.
County were gifted a goal in the 35th minute that, at that point, they had scarcely deserved, thanks to rare indecision from Reds’ keeper Jon Stewart, who was faced with a through-ball that had skimmed off Ross Killock’s head and fallen short of him with Michael Smith homing in.
Stewart opted to hack upfield but the clearance was charged down by Smith, who then chased the loose ball to the bye-line. The keeper managed another touch in a desperate bid to atone but Smith squeezed it home from the tightest of angles to reduce the deficit.
A glaring miss by Lee Minshull in the 43rd minute was to be rued by the visiting camp when David Pipe conceded a penalty on the stroke of half-time after persistently leaning into Tomlinson as the pair entered the area, the referee consulting with his assistant before pointing to the spot.
Bradley stepped up to successfully despatch his fifth penalty of the season, low to the right of Pidgeley, who never looked like reaching it.
Killock went close with a header from Law’s 54th minute free-kick, but, six minutes later, Newport were back in contention when O’Connor made it 3-2 from close range after Stewart had clawed an inswinging corner from Andy Sandell against the crossbar.
The goals continued to flow and Clayton scored his second goal and Alfreton’s fourth with 20 minutes remaining, his near post header finding the net through a crowded six-yard box from another accurate Law corner.
As the pressure was asserted once again Tony James somehow blocked an Arnold shot and Tomlinson’s celebrations were cut short by an off-side flag, after finding the net in the 73rd minute.
Stewart certainly made up for his earlier misdemeanour by parrying O’Connor’s low drive before somehow diverting Ismail Yakubu’s thunderbolt volley in the 83rd minute, but with barely 60 seconds remaining on the clock, O’Connor managed to beat Stewart with a low drive from Jake Thomson’s cross.
Alfreton, though, survived a nervy five minutes of added time to reach a total of 21 points from 17 games, a target they needed 26 matches to attain last season.
ALFRETON: Stewart; Law, Killock, Franks, Franklin [Brown 84], Meadows, Streete, Bradley, Arnold, Clayton, Tomlinson. other subs: Barnes, Quinn, Russell, Worsfold. Att: 663