Blue Square Bet Premier Division
Alfreton Town 3
ALFRETON Town pulled off a vital 3-1 win from their Blue Square Bet Premier encounter with troubled Darlington at the Impact Arena, despite playing the last 31 minutes with only ten men after Anton Brown had been sent off for a second bookable offence.
The visitors’ problems have been well documented in recent weeks, but they put up spirited resistance and even took a 28th minute lead, although Alfreton’s ultimate victory has drawn the teams level on 28 points.
Goal difference though sees the Reds remain in the relegation zone with Darlington hovering precariously above it, the damage from the visitors’ perspective having been a ten point deduction last month for entering administration.
Both sides took time to settle on a blustery afternoon, but visiting keeper Jordan Pickford had to punch out an effort from Anton Brown under pressure in the sixth minute, then Nathan Arnold’s angled drive was blocked by Pickford after being sent down the right by Paul Clayton.
Former Derby County player Marc Bridge-Wilkinson forged his way to the byline before seeing his cross held by Reds’ keeper Dan Lowson in the 12th minute, then the same two players were involved again two minutes later when a venomous drive from 22 yards had to be turned behind.
Following the corner, Kris Taylor unleashed a powerful volley that needed tipping over at the last moment by Lowson at full stretch, but Alfreton responded with both Arnold and Clayton going close.
Pickford saved low and late as a deep Arnold free-kick threatened to creep in at the back post in the 20th minute, then after a lull in the proceedings Darlington took the lead eight minutes later.
Adam Rundle’s deflected shot was palmed aside by the diving Lowson, but only as far as Ryan Bowman who rifled the ball home from six yards.
Bridge-Wilkinson again tested Lowson from 22 yards, but the Reds were level by the 33rd minute after Anthony Wilson had sent Arnold clear before slotting coolly past Pickford.
Adam Quinn’s 42nd minute clearance saw Clayton and Pickford converge on the ball outside the area and the block tackle fell kindly for the Alfreton striker, who appeared to be impeded by the keeper as he prepared to shoot at the unguarded net.
However, the whistle was not forthcoming and play continued much to the home contingent’s disbelief and half-time arrived with the scores level.
Seconds after the break Aaron Brown’s free-kick was sliced behind by Greg Young as firstly rain and then hail lashed down and the wind picked up dramatically. Then from the corner John McReady fired woefully wide from 18 yards.
Lowson held another effort from Bridge-Wilkinson on 52 minutes, then at the other end Arnold’s devious free-kick needed tipping over by Pickford before Clayton headed over from Nathan Jarman’s corner.
Alfreton took a 58th minute lead after Wilson had forced the ball through to Jarman, whose stinging drive was fumbled by Pickford and Clayton followed up from virtually on the goal-line.
The next minute Brown was sent off after receiving a second yellow card, but to their immense credit the Reds kept pushing forward and did not allow Darlington to settle into any sort of rhythm from that point.
Danny Lambert did manage to break through though and produce an isolated shot in the 69th minute that was again dealt with by Lowson, but Alfreton stepped up a gear and within 60 seconds found themselves 3-1 ahead.
Once again it was a well-taken goal by Arnold, who finished the move by steering the ball through the keeper’s legs after Clayton had sent him clear.
Clayton’s low drive after cutting in was held by Pickford in the 75th minute, then Darlington came closest to a consolation in added time when Darran Kempson almost sliced Rundle’s deep cross into his own net.
Alfreton Town: Dan Lowson, Theo Streete, Adam Quinn, Darran Kempson, Greg Young, Nathan Jarman, Jake Moult (Josh Law 86), Anton Brown, Nathan Arnold, Paul Clayton (Jordan Hall 86), Anthony Wilson (Craig Clay 64).
Substitutes not used: Connor Franklin, Jamie Mullan.
Darlington: Jordan Pickford, Paul Arnison, Kris Taylor, Scott Harrison, Aaron Brown (David Ferguson 78), John McReady, Rob Ramshaw (Dale Hopson 74), Clark Keltie (Danny Lambert 63), Adam Rundle, Marc Bridge-Wilkinson, Ryan Bowman.
Substitutes not used: Jordan Nixon (GK), Liam Bagnall.
Referee: Mr Richard Clark of Morpeth
Alfreton Town - Nathan Arnold 33 and 69, Paul Clayton 58.
Darlington - Ryan Bowman 27.
Alfreton Town: Anton Brown (29, foul on Adam Rundle) and (60, foul on Adam Rundle).
Darlington: Adam Rundle, Paul Arnison
Anton Brown (Alfreton Town (60, second cautionable offence).
Attendance breakdown: 950 including 249 from Darlington
Reds man of the match: Nathan Arnold