19 March 2016
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Alfreton Town are now four games without a win in the league and four without a win on home soil after stumbling to a 1-0 home defeat against FC United of Manchester.
It was a first ever game against FCUM at the Impact Arena and was witnessed by a season’s best attendance of 1,087.
However, from a home perspective, that was just about the only thing worth celebrating as the Reds huffed and puffed but couldn’t blow a well-drilled visiting defence down.
Reds boss Nicky Law handed latest signing Julian Banton a first start just a day after he joined on loan until the end of the season from Sheffield United and he was one of the few to shine as he put in an assured display firstly both in central defence and later at right back after Joe Doyle had exited with a tight hamstring.
Alfreton began well and had the visitors on the ropes for the first 15 minutes with a strong attacking display but they could not capitalise on their early supremacy and the visitors grew into the game before snatching what proved to be the winner through George Thomson on 26 minutes.
After that the Reds had plenty of possession but simply ran out of ideas as to how to unlock a packed United defence although the visitors were indebted to right back Dale Tonge for all three points as he produced a terrific goalline clearance on 81 minutes to keep out a powerful Sam Jones shot.
A blistering start by Alfreton saw them win the game’s first corner after just 30 seconds. Dan Bradley got to the left byline and put in a terrific cross to the far post for Sam Smith but Luke Ashworth nipped in ahead of the Reds striker to head beind.
As Alfreton continued to make the early running, Lindon Meikle cut in from the left but the ball pitched up just as he attempted a curler for the far corner and he skewed high and wide on ten minutes.
One minute later the lively Bradley cut in from the left and fired the game’s first shot on target from the edge of the area but visiting keeper David Carnell comfortably saved.
In the next raid, Bradley easily beat United right back Dale Tonge before he was brought to the ground by a posse of three defenders but referee Mr Richardson was unmoved.
In reply, a deep cross from Chris Chantler looked destined for George Thomson but thankfully the ball pitched heavily and carried over his head when unmarked in the middle of the penalty area.
A strong 40 yard run out of defence by Sam Smith took him deep into visiting territory where he despatched a crisp low shot which was met by a smart low save by Carnell on 17 minutes.
Carnell then came through a crowd and claimed a long throw from Niall Heaton with aplomb.
FC United took the lead against the run of play on 26 minutes when a cross from the left was deflected into the path of George Thomson and he rifled home a crisp shot from twelve yards out.
The Reds replied with a break down the right but after the ball broke back to Joe Leesley his left footed shot flew yards over the bar before Bradley’s curling effort from the right went beyond the far upright.
The visiting defence survived a scare on 32 minutes when keeper Carnell failed to deal with a deflected Bradley cross but Chantler cleared before Smith could get on the end of it then a Sam Jones cross from the right ended with Lindon Meikle inches away from connecting in front of goal.
United hit back and a whipped in cross from Thomson saw Joe Doyle head away from the incoming Chantler beyond the far post.
United were thankful for a last ditch block by Scott Kay on 40 minutes which blocked an Andi Thanoj shot at point blank after Bradley had carved the visiting defence open down the left.
Meikle was sandwiched for a Reds free kick just before half time but Leesley’s dead ball was poor, too low and straight at the first defender who cleared.
Sam Jones required treatment after a late challenge at the start of the second half then Tom Alan replaced Joe Doyle on 48 minutes with the departing Reds right back feeling his right hamstring.
Allan moved into central defence with Banton moving to right back.
Alfreton went close on 52 minutes when a neat move ended with Jones’s shot kept away from goal by a diving header from Harry Winter deep in the area.
Banton twice got in critical challenges to deny firstly Jerome Wright and then Thomson deep in the home penalty area as the visitors began to attack with regularity.
United should have doubled their lead on 59 minutes when Thomson neatly side-stepped past a challenge in the penalty area but having done the hard work his shot was hurried and off target.
Chantler required treatment for a head injury after being caught in an aerial clash with Joe Leesley who picked up the game’s first yellow card on 64 minutes.
The Reds then made their second change with Jamie Jackson replacing Sam Smith up front.
FC United went very close to a second goal on 70 minutes. Sam Sheridan laid off a short free kick 20 yards out for Thomson and his powerful shot whistled past the far upright by inches with the aid of a slight deflection.
Referee Richardson missed another chance of a booking when Jerome Wright clattered into Allan deep in the home area, the official choosing instead to give the visitors a corner!
A fizzing cross from the right by Thomson just evaded Johnson in the centre and Banton cleared ahead of Wright at the far post for another corner. The dead ball wasn’t cleared and was fed back to Thomson on the edge of the area but he fired over.
Alfreton made their final change on 77 minutes with Leesley being replaced by Ryan Wilson.
The Reds were denied an equaliser on 81 minutes thanks to a tremendous goal line block by Dale Tonge who kept out a thumping drive from Sam Jones which beat keeper Carnell.
Moments later a long range shot from Bradley caused Carnell few problems and United broke onto a telegraphed Allan Crossfield pass but Sheridan couldn’t get his shot on target.
As Alfreton’s frustrations showed, Todd Jordan was booked for a rash challenge on Sheridan from behind on 89 minutes and that was that as the Reds ended up with an eighth home defeat of the season from eighteen games.
Indeed, only the bottom two teams Hednesford Town and Corby Town now have worse home records than the Reds.
Alfreton Town Team:
01 Matt Duke
02 Joe Doyle-Charles (Tom Allan, 48 minutes)
03 Julian Banton
04 Todd Jordan
05 Niall Heaton
06 Joe Leesley (Ryan Wilson, 77 minutes)
07 Andi Thanoj
08 Lindon Meikle
09 Sam Jones
10 Sam Smith (Jamie Jackson, 64 minutes)
11 Dan Bradley (c)
Substitute not used:
FC United of Manchester Team:
01 David Carnell
02 Dale Tonge
03 Chris Chantler
04 Scott Kay
05 Tom Eckersley
06 Luke Ashworth
07 Sam Sheridan
08 Harry Winter
09 Dale Johnson (Tom Greaves, 79 minutes)
10 Jerome Wright (c)
11 George Thomson (Matthew Wolfenden, 87 minutes)
Substitutes not used:
Daniels, Thurston, Brown.
FC United of Manchester – George Thomson (26)
Alfreton Town – Joe Leesley (64, foul on Chris Chantler), Todd Jordan (89, foul on Sam Sheridan)
FC United of Manchester - None
Attendance breakdown: 1,087 including 452 from Manchester
Man of the Match: Dan Bradley
Referee: David Richardson of Sowerby Bridge