27 July 2013
Dave Pursglove's match picture album here
Alfreton Town stepped up their pre-season preparations with their best display of the summer so far.
In their final scheduled home outing before the Skrill Premier league season starts, the Reds were far more cohesive and fluent than in previous games and created several good opportunities as well.
Manager Nicky Law sprang a surprise by starting striker Matthew Barnes-Homer who netted 18 times for Macclesfield Town last season and his presence and impressive hold-up play enabled the Reds to carry far more of a threat up front than of late.
Another surprise was second half substitute Martin Devaney, a winger who includes Cheltenham Town and Barnsley amongst his former clubs in a league career of over 400 appearances, and he too did well.
The early pressure came from the League One visitors but their final ball into the danger zone let them down.
After Doug Loft had tamely dragged a shot wide for Vale, a lovely cushioned header from Paul Clayton gave Barnes-Homer a shooting opportunity but he too was off target.
The Valiants responded by taking the lead on 11 minutes, Chris Robertson netting a lovely glancing header from six yards to finish a deep Chris Lines free kick from the left flank, but Alfreton will be somewhat disappointed that the scorer was given a free header.
The game opened out into a good contest with Danny Meadows prominent for Alfreton who pieced together some well-crafted passing moves through midfield whilst Lee Hughes keet the home defence on their toes with some good angled runs.
Alfreton went very close on 25 minutes when a lovely ball in from the left from Josh Law set up Tom Shaw but his curling 20 yarder just cleared the left-hand post.
Home keeper Ross Atkins produced saves from both Loft and Hughes and as Alfreton responded, lovely link up play between Barnes-Homer, Clayton and Law ended with a Reds corner from which Nick Fenton fired well wide.
As play swung from end to end, Lee Hughes got through in the inside left channel but was denied by a superb save from Atkins before Vale keeper Sam Johnson got down quickly to save Josh Law's 18 yard right-footed curler which looked destined for the bottom right corner a minute before the interval.
Strangely, there were no half-time changes for either side, indeed, Vale manager Micky Adams chose not to make any at all throughout the 90 minutes.
As with the first half, Vale started the brighter, but also as with the start of the first half, the visitors didn't doo too much with their possession either although Ross Atkins did have to get down smartly to cut out a low Hughes cross intended for Ben Williamson on 50 minutes.
Reds manager Nicky Law began to ring the changes with five substitutes entering the contest within four minutes before the hour mark.
Atkins saved twice more before Barnes-Homer headed wide a cross from Alastair Taylor who had shown great persistence to get the cross in.
With ten minutes left, Alfreton had a decent chance to get level when a long free kick from Aaron Webster picked out Nick Fenton at the back post but his downward header is straight at Sam Johnson.
A second Port Vale arrived on 86 minutes and there was a good chunk of good fortune about it.
If Lee Hughes intended it, it would have been a great goal, but it looked to be no more than a driven cross from the right flank which cleared home keeper Atkins and fortuitously nestled high inside the far post.
It was tough on Alfreton who had matched the visitors in all departments up until then.
There was still time for one last chance for the hosts with substitute Joel Purkiss producing a neat turn and shot which was well blocked by Chris Robertson.
All in all both managers will be pleased with a well-contested work-out and this was a very good display from Alfreton who are starting to gel as a unit.
Alfreton Town Team:
Chris Westwood (Darran Kempson, 55)
Josh Law (Alastair Taylor, 55)
Paul Clayton (Kristian Ramsey-Dickson, 55)
Matthew Barnes-Homes (Joel Purkiss (79)
Daniel Meadows (Martin Devaney, 55)
Tom Shaw (Aaron Webster, 59)
Port Vale Team:
Substitutes not used:
18 Gary O'Neill
Goals: Port Vale - Chris Robertson (11), Lee Hughes (86).
Man of the Match: Nick Fenton
Referee: Martin Watts