25 April 2015
Dave Pursglove's Match Picture Album here
Alfreton Town's first relegation in 16 years was confirmed in a painful 7-0 defeat at the hands of promotion aspirants Bristol Rovers in the final league outing of the season.
With the home side still in with a chance of the title, should Barnet have slipped up against Gateshead, a Conference record crowd of 11,085 crammed into the Memorial Ground, bettering every League Two gate on the day.
It was a little bit different from Alfreton's experience on 24th April 1999, when relegation from the Northern Premier League First Division was confirmed after a 5-1 reversal at Great Harwood Town in front of a handful of spectators at The Showground, but for those who remember it was equally galling.
Alfreton's meteoric rise since then, under the careful guidance of chairman Wayne Bradley, has been well documented and has been rewarded with four seasons at non-League football's top table, a scenario that would have seemed highly improbable had it been suggested on that day in Lancashire.
Manager Nicky Law opted for a 4-5-1 formation at Bristol with Jake Speight alone up front, and with the hosts a little jittery in the opening 20 minutes that period produced Alfreton's best opportunities to silence the partisan fans.
Dan Bradley's lengthy run in the third minute had taken him to the by-line before running the ball out, then nine minutes later John Johnston slipped at the vital moment as he took a return pass from Bradley on the edge of the area.
Just before taking the lead after 20 minutes Rovers had stepped up the pressure appreciably, with Wood having to block a shot from Taylor and Parkes then hitting the woodwork from the ensuing corner.
Heads dropped when Jake Gosling lashed the ball home from 20 yards following a run by Andy Monkhouse, with Rovers doubling their advantage in the 29th minute when Ellis Harrison chested home a Lee Brown cross with Reds' skipper Luke Graham only able to help the ball into the net.
A third goal on the stroke of half-time was the first of four goals from simple close-range headers, Matty Taylor finding the net from the edge of the six-yard box after a stretching run by Chris Lines.
Just three minutes after the interval it was 4-0 to the home side with Taylor heading home a deep Mark McChrystal cross from just three yards, with Alfreton at least stemming the flow for half an hour before normal service was resumed in the 79th minute.
This time it was a free header at the near post by Lee Mansell from a Daniel Leadbitter cross, with a sixth goal following within two minutes as Rovers went for the jugular.
Both Graham and Bradley Wood slid in together to intercept an Angelo Balanta cross, with Tom Flynn parrying before the loose ball was lashed home by Monkhouse from eight yards.
The rout was completed three minutes into added time when Tom Parkes was left with another unchallenged header from another Monkhouse cross, the referee mercifully blowing the final whistle moments later to a deafening roar.
Joe lronside had the clearest chance for the Reds on 61 minutes, running on to a pass from fellow substitute Massiah McDonald to fire from 18 yards, with keeper Will Puddy making a rare contribution to the game by leaping to turn a good effort behind.
Ironside went on to have a stifled shot saved by Puddy in the 69th minute, the home keeper then holding an effort from McDonald two minutes later from a Bradley cross.
At the final whistle all of the Reds' players went over to applaud the 97 Alfreton fans who had made the best of their day out - relegation may have been the reality, but at least those loyal supporters can say they were part of a four-year journey at the apex of the club's history, topped off by making up the numbers in a record crowd.
Alfreton Town Team:
01 Tom Flynn
11 Anthony Howell
02 Bradley Wood
05 Luke Graham
03 Lathaniel Rowe-Turner
29 Jimmy Phillips
27 John Johnston (17 Massiah McDonald, 60 mins)
10 Dan Bradley
26 Niall Heaton
07 Jake Speight (18 Joe Ironside, 52 mins)
12 Tom Shaw
Substitutes not used:
04 Duane Courtney
21 Andi Thanoj
23 Karl Hawley
Bristol Rovers Team:
25 Will Puddy
04 Tom Lockyer (02 Daniel Leadbitter, 71 mins)
05 Mark McChrystal
06 Tom Parkes
03 Lee Brown
11 Jake Gosling
14 Chris Lines (08 Ollie Clarke, 71 mins)
07 Lee Mansell
23 Andy Monkhouse
10 Matty Taylor
17 Ellis Harrison (29 Angelo Balanta, 62 mins)
Substitutes not used:
01 Steve Mildenhall
27 Nathan Blissett
Bristol Rovers - Jake Gosling (20), Ellis Harrison (29), Matty Taylor (45 & 48), Lee Mansell (79), Andy Monkhouse (82), Tom Parkes (90).
Alfreton Town - Massiah McDonald
Attendance breakdown: 11,085 including 97 from Alfreton
Man of the Match: Dan Bradley
Referee: Ben Toner of Darwen