26 April 2014
Dave Pursglove and Bill Wheatcroft's match picture album here
Alfreton Town brought the curtain down on their best season at the pinnacle of the non-league football pyramid by finishing 11th in the Skrill Premier - an improvement on 13th last term and 15th in their first season.
However Saturday's defeat at home to Macclesfield Town completed a downward spiral that had seen the Reds gain only three points from their last eight games since triumphing over Tamworth at the lmpact Arena on March 18th - they were third at the time and had held a play-off position for much of the season.
With nothing but pride to play for both sides tried hard to raise their game without success, and a goalless draw was only avoided by former Reds' loanee striker Scott Boden's 89th minute winner.
Paul Lewis tried to put the Silkmen in the driving seat after four minutes, but his shot was parried by Alfreton keeper Jon Worsnop and Godfrey Poku blocked the follow-up from Lewis.
Josh Law's ninth minute free-kick saw Connor Franklin's back-post shot blocked by the busy Lewis, but it was to be another 14 minutes before any further noteworthy action occurred with Boden heading over from a Jack Mackreth cross.
Dan Bradley was then caught off-side for the third time as he slotted the ball past visiting keeper Ritchie Branagan from a Law through-ball, then Job Ayo Akinde's by-line cross was not deep enough for Bradley to connect with.
A stinging drive from Scott Kay in the 34th minute was turned aside at full stretch by Worsnop, then five minutes later a slip by Steve Williams led to Akinde missing a gilt-edged chance to open the scoring by firing straight at Branagan from eight yards.
Bradley went close from 20 yards with three minutes of the first half remaining, then the midfielder saw his low drive saved after a prominent central run, the interval arriving as Franklin miskicked at the back post from Shaun Harrad's cross.
Two minutes after the restart Chris Westwood had to clear off the line from Boden's header following another Mackreth cross, then yet another Mackreth delivery saw Daniel Whitaker stab the ball wide from 12 yards.
Worsnop dealt with an effort from Peter Winn following a Paul Turnbull through-ball in the 59th minute, then at the other end Daniel Meadows fired over from a Bradley Wood cross.
Alfreton manager Nicky Law replaced Worsnop with Joe Wildsmith, who had excelled on Easter Monday at Hereford, in a pre-planned move in the 64th minute and the young keeper was soon in action parrying Boden's close-range shot before the red-faced Macclesfield striker missed a gaping goal from the rebound, firing wildly wide.
Alastair Taylor had been brought on in the second half for his first appearance in a Reds' shirt since the Derbyshire Senior Cup defeat at the hands of Heanor Town in December - the midfielder has made only six starts and 15 substitute appearances in two seasons - but he had a superb volley saved by Branagan on 74 minutes.
Two minutes later Paul Clayton forged a way through to go close after riding a couple of tackles, then Branagan held a Clayton volley after Poku's shot had been blocked.
Wildsmith saved at point-blank range from George Pilkington in the 87th minute, but he was helpless to prevent Boden's header looping over him from 14 yards from another accurate Mackreth cross two minutes later.
There was still time for Wildsmith to earn applause for a good save after Winn's strong run had threatened to double Macclesfield's tally, but generally the game reflected Alfreton's run-in during the final five weeks of the season which ultimately cost them a stab at League status.
After the game the annual awards were presented on the pitch, with the three main recipients as follows:-
Manager's Player of the Season - Job Ayo Akinde
Players' Player of the Season - Nick Fenton
Supporters' Player of the Season - Bradley Wood
Alfreton Town Team:
15 Jon Worsnop (01 Joe Wildsmith, 64 mins)
02 Bradley Wood
03 Connor Franklin
23 Godfrey Poku
04 Chris Westwood
21 Lathaniel Rowe-Turner
07 Josh Law
12 Daniel Meadows
18 Job Ayo Akinde
10 Dan Bradley (14 Alastair Taylor, 52 mins)
24 Shaun Harrad (09 Paul Clayton, 64 mins)
Substitutes not used:
06 Darran Kempson
20 Jay McFadzean
Macclesfield Town Team:
20 Ritchie Branagan
28 Daniel Cowan
03 Daniel Andrew
15 Paul Lewis (09 Chris Holroyd, 66 mins)
27 George Pilkington
12 Steve Williams
07 Jack Mackreth
06 Paul Turnbull (c)
19 Scott Boden
11 Peter Winn
25 Scott Kay (23 Daniel Whitaker, h/t)
Substitutes not used:
01 Rhys Taylor
24 Danny Rowe
29 William Bailey
Macclesfield Town - Scott Boden 89 mins
Man of the Match: Bradley Wood
Referee: Wayne Barrett of Bromsgrove