21 March 2015
Dave Pursglove's match picture album here
YOUTUBE HIGHLIGHTS HERE
Alfreton Town took another step towards Vanarama Conference safety with a hard-earned point against a decent Chester side who kept going right to the end, grabbing a late equaliser to inflict a first goal conceded by Nicky Law’s side in 488 minutes.
It was a second successive draw for the Reds but they are now unbeaten in five games and they extended their advantage to five points clear of the drop zone.
With Dan Bradley still not recovered from a virus, Law kept the same starting XI as had drawn with Lincoln City in midweek, latest signing, striker Jake Speight having to be content with a place on the bench after joining from Harrogate Town on loan to the end of the season the day before.
The Reds shook off Chester’s early efforts and hit back to take a 22nd minute lead with a fantastic strike from Tom Shaw.
Further chances followed and Ben Heneghan twice cleared off his line to rescue the visitors who stuck to their task and equalised with less than two minutes or normal time left.
In a lively start to the game, Chester central defender Henighan came to his side’s rescue after just 42 seconds as he headed a Karl Hawley header from a Joe Ironside cross off the line.
As the hosts swarmed around the home final third, a John Rooney shot from the edge of the home penalty area brought a fine diving save from Jason Mooney.
Alfreton returned fire and won their first corner on five minutes, Tom Shaw’s flag a kick picking out Lathaniel Rowe-Turner whose flashing header was tipped over from underneath his bar by former Reds keeper Jon Worsnop.
Bradley Wood threw himself courageously in front of a Ryan Higgins shot from the edge of the area as the visitors continued to look dangerous on the break.
Chester again broke quickly from Alfreton pressure and Simon Lenighan did well to get back and nick the ball away from Matty Hughes to stop the blues from building through the middle.
The visitors won their second corner of the game on 16 minutes but Mooney came and comfortably claimed the ball in from the left.
Scottish Under-19s international Oliver McBurnie broke down the left for the visitors and squared for John Rooney and his 25 yarder from a central position was not too far away over the right-hand angle.
A quick raid down Alfreton’s right saw Ironside’s attempted early cross for the waiting and unmarked Hawley blocked away for a throw-in.
Alfreton then had big shouts for hand-ball deep inside the penalty area waived aside by referee Lymer with 19 minutes gone.
The Reds took the lead in stunning fashion on 22 minutes when Tom Shaw picked a loose ball up in midfield, set himself and smashed in a great 30-yard right-footed shot into the top right corner which beat the best efforts of the diving Worsnop all ends up.
Hawley almost got onto a loose ball in the visiting penalty area but Worsnop snatched it away from him at the last minute before a long throw from Wood on the left on 27 minutes fell to Ironside but his shot was blocked at close quarters and from the rebound Karl Hawley sliced his shot wide from 12 yards.
The visitors went close on 32 minutes when Rooney’s left-footed shot came back off the foot of the left-hand post before being cleared then McBurnie had a run down the home right halted by a foul by Rowe-Turner but Rooney’s free kick cleared everyone at the far post.
Alfreton applied growing pressure before the break and Shaw robbed Heneghan but could not get his cross beyond the last defender for the waiting Hawley at the far post.
Hawley then put Heneghan under pressure to win a deep throw-in down the left.
Chester hit back to win their third corner of the game, the referee – who bemused and infuriated both sides with a bizarre array of decisions throughout - changing his mind after initially awarding a goal kick.
After swapping Brad Abbott for substitute Sean McConville at the break, Chester began the secondhalf in lively fashion and Callum Howe had to get in a timely challenge on Gareth Roberts, the left back having drifted deep into the area before another raking cross-field ball from Rooney brought a lovely cushioned header from Bradley Wood back to Mooney.
A strong run by Ryan Higgins was ended just outside the Alfreton area by a foul by Andi Thanoj but the free kick came to nothing.
Reds boss Nicky Law made his first change with John Johnston being replaced by Jake Speight on 56 minutes.
Shortly after Shaw and Wood both had shots blocked around the visiting penalty area before Chester returned fire with McConville and then McBurnie having efforts blocked and saved respectively.
Speight broke the offside trap onto a ball from Ironside but was denied by a trailing leg from Worsnop for a very good save. And as Alfreton kept the pressure on, Speight got another good touch but Heneghan got back to clear before an Ironside shot from the right ended with Speight getting a flick but the ball was cleared for a corner.
The visitors hit back to win another corner and from a pull-back, a Higgins cross was met by the head of Heneghan who climbed highest but glanced his effort wide of the far post.
Chester made a double substitution on 74 minutes. Roberts and Rooney being replaced by Charnock and Peers.
Another baffling refereeing decision handed Chester a free-kick after Lenighan had appeared to win the ball and from the free kick, Higgins smashed a piledriver of an effort through the area, it taking a deflection off a visiting player before whizzing over the bar.
Jake Speight led a rapid raid down Alfreton’s left before unluckily seeing his intended ball for Hawley clip off a Chester defender and go to safety.
Hughes created half-a-yard of space deep in the home area but his shot lacked power and Mooney easily saved before Heneghan looped a header over the bar as the visitors continued to press.
McBurnie was then penalised for holding Rowe-Turner in a one-on-race for the ball from outside and into the home area. To be fair it looked six of one and half-a-dozen of the other and the Reds breathed a sigh of relief.
Chester continued to have plenty of possession and a Hughes shot took a deflection for another corner from which Mooney gratefully claimed.
Alfreton replied with another corner after which Speight lashed a decent chance well wide.
Speight then led another raid but was then ‘mugged’ off the ball by a double-handed push in the back after at least one visiting defender. It was a ridiculous foul and even more ridiculous decision not to award a free kick.
Creditably, Chester continued to attack with purpose and they equalised on 88 minutes when Heneghan headed back across Mooney and into the far corner to finish a pinpoint McConville cross.
The missed Alfreton chances certainly proved costly, but the visitors perhaps deserved something from the game.
Alfreton Town Team:
20 Jason Mooney
05 Luke Graham
28 Callum Howe
02 Bradley Wood
27 John Johnston (07 Jake Speight, 56 mins)
12 Tom Shaw
25 Simon Lenighan
21 Andi Thanoj
18 Joe Ironside
23 Karl Hawley
Substitutes not used:
04 Duane Courtney
11 Anthony Howell
24 Joe Leesley
26 Niall Heaton
01 Jon Worsnop
03 Gareth Roberts (06 Kieran Charnock, 74 mins)
04 Michael Kay ©
07 Craig Mahon
08 Kingsley James
10 John Rooney (21 Tom Peers, 74 mins)
17 Oliver McBurnie
18 Brad Abbott (16 Sean McConville, h/t)
22 Ben Heneghan
23 Ryan Higgins
27 Matty Hughes
Substitutes not used:13 Jonathan Viscosi (GK)
19 Craig Hobson
Alfreton Town - Tom Shaw (22 mins)
Chester - Ben Heneghan (88 mins)
Attendance breakdown: 857 including 269 from Chester
Man of the Match: Bradley Wood
Referee: Colin Lymer of Basingstoke