26 December 2012
Dave Pursglove's match picture album here
Alfreton Town notched up another memorable victory on Boxing Day to defeat Mansfield Town for the first time in five attempts and climb to 15th spot in the Blue Square Bet Premier.
Having been poles apart from their illustrious neighbours for decades, the Reds have recently risen as the Stags have stumbled, and the Christmas meeting brought home the reality of just how close they now are in footballing status.
Remarkably, in all four of their previous encounters in FATrophy and league games over the past two seasons, Alfreton had scored the first goal, so when Mansfield took a 35th minute lead the scene was set for a different outcome.
Yet manager Nicky Law had made five changes, mainly due to suspensions and key players being unfit, from the side that had drawn 1-1 at home to Cambridge United eight days earlier.
Theo Streete and goalkeeper Jon Stewart both missed the game through one-match suspensions whilst Darran Kempson had a slight hamstring problem and left-back Connor Franklin had been unwell on Christmas Day.
Ross Killock filled Franklin's position with Leigh Franks joining Adam Quinn in central defence.
The weather also played a major role, because incessant rain that had started shortly before kick-off made play increasingly more difficult and slower as conditions deteriorated, which helped the Reds to maintain their 57th minute advantage and served to visibly frustrate the hosts.
A slow, tentative start to the game eventually led to a promising ninth minute Alfreton attack with Nathan Arnold feeding reinstated midfielder Simon Russell on the right, but home keeper Alan Marriott intercepted the cross that was intended for Paul Clayton.
Nine minutes later a swift break from a Mansfield throw-in saw Dan Bradley sprint upfield with Arnold in support, but as he homed in on the return pass Lindon Meikle managed to head back to his keeper under pressure.
Mansfield suddenly stepped up a gear and the Reds had to be alert in the 22nd minute as Meikle slipped the ball through to Matt Green who was shadowed immediately by Ross Killock.
The Reds' defender did enough to make Green stifle his shot, but the ball broke to Chris Clements 25 yards out and despite Phil Barnes not having played since August, the visiting keeper pulled off a tremendous save to turn behind his rasping drive.
Four minutes later Green was in on goal again having been put through by Louis Briscoe, but the heavy pitch held the ball up enough for Killock to cover, then Killock and Adam Quinn combined at the back post to clear the ball off the line after a left-wing corner caused mayhem in a crowded box.
A manic couple of minutes was triggered by Arnold's deflected shot that had spun off a defender for Alfreton's first corner, which had to be cleared off the line by Stags' skipper John Dempster when Clayton glanced a header towards goal.
Moments later Dempster popped up at the other end to put Mansfield ahead from close range after Lee Beevers' throw had been worked back to him on the left.
Just 90 seconds elapsed before the away section of Field Mill erupted as Clayton powered home a header from six yards from Josh Law's cleverly flighted free-kick and Alfreton were deservedly level on 37 minutes.
A quiet second half saw the Reds take the lead 12 minutes after the break when an exquisite pass from Russell allowed Ben Tomlinson to make an angled run at goal, and after brushing past defender Exodus Geohaghon, the recalled striker guided his low drive into the far corner of the net.
Green went on to miss a couple of decent chances for the Stags, but the two clearest opportunities for either side came shortly before the fourth official indicated a mammoth six minutes of added time.
Mansfield substitute Jake Speight suddenly broke into the area from a mundane move, but Barnes was aware of the danger and made a match-winning save when an equaliser looked inevitable.
Then a slip on the half-way line by Meikle, which was entirely due to the conditions, set Tomlinson free for a long run at goal but he dragged his eventual shot wide.
There was still time for a cameo appearance for the long-serving defender Matt Wilson, who was injured whilst on loan to Boston United earlier in the season and has struggled to feature in the squad for the last 12 months.
Alfreton Town Team:
01 Phil Barnes
02 Josh Law
05 Adam Quinn
19 Simon Russell
23 Ross Killock
07 Anton Brown
10 Dan Bradley
11 Nathan Arnold (Matt Wilson, 90 mins)
12 Leigh Franks
09 Paul Clayton
21 Ben Tomlinson (Danny Emerton, 90 mins)
Substitutes not used:
04 Alastair Taylor
14 Daniel Meadows
16 Matty Harriott
Mansfield Town Team:
01 Alan Marriott
02 Ritchie Sutton
04 John Dempster
17 Lee Beevers
33 Exodus Geohaghan
07 Lindon Meikle
11 Louis Briscoe (Jake Speight, 77 mins)
13 Anthony Howell
14 Chris Clements (Lee Stevenson, 81 mins)
10 Matt Green
25 Ben Hutchinson (Matt Rhead, 55 mins)
Substitutes not used:
03 John Thompson
21 Adam Murray
Goals: Mansfield Town - John Dempster 35 mins. Alfreton Town - Paul Clayton 37 mins; Ben Tomlinson 57 mins.
Bookings: Mansfield Town - Ritchie Sutton (45, foul on Nathan Arnold), Matt Green (unsporting behaviour 73). Alfreton Town - Paul Clayton (60, foul on Alan Marriott), Leigh Franks (73, unsporting behaviour).
Attendance breakdown: 4,186 including 350 from Alfreton.
Man of the Match: Nathan Arnold
Referee: Seb Stockbridge of Houghton-le-Spring