Alfreton in the F.A. Trophy
Wednesday Jan 11, 2017
As the Reds prepare to travel to Boreham Wood in the Second Round of the F.A. trophy on Saturday, Press Officer Amar Sharma and Bill Draper present a feature length piece on the Club’s history in the competition as we progress in our 45th year in the F.A. Trophy.
Alfreton Town were involved in the prestigious F.A.Trophy right from the start of the competition in season 1969/70, and have only missed three seasons since due to relegation in 1999 and an enforced diversion to the F.A.Vase.
That first season was the one that saw Alfreton win the Midland League title by Easter, with a 100% home record and a goal difference of 119 goals for and 19 against from 34 games. The first tie took place at home (then known as the Town Ground) on an autumnal Saturday 8th November 1969 against Chorley of the Northern Premier League, just seven days before the marathon four-match F.A.Cup tie against Third Division Barrow (now known as League One).
Covered in leaves the pitch was a far cry from the excellent surface to be found today, but the unthinkable happened - the late, great Johnny Harrison stepped up to take a penalty and missed for the first time since joining the Reds in 1964. Alfreton had to settle for a goal-less draw, and went on to lose the midweek replay by a solitary goal.
Their first win duly arrived the following season with a resounding 5-0 win at Gresley Rovers - the only occasion that Harrison wore no.7 in his 560 appearances for the club - before Mexborough were beaten 4-1 at home to set up a memorable 0-2 defeat at the then big-time Boston United in the Third Qualifying Round.
ln season 1972/3 Alfreton suffered an humiliating 0-7 defeat to Bradford Park Avenue, who had only just been relegated from the League and were still playing at Park Avenue - it was Maurice Firth's first game as manager after Joe Hooley had suddenly left for a glamorous post at Colchester United (and many years later became part of the England set-up).
Firth went on to win five trophies (including the Midland League title, Midland League Cup twice and the Derbyshire Senior Cup twice) in 2.75 seasons - a haul that still stands as a record for Alfreton Town.
Even more ignimony was suffered the following season (1973/74) by the lowest point that any club can reach in a competition - having to present the opposition with a walk-over. Spalding United had been beaten 6-1 at home and Ely City 6-3 away with a team that included a certain striker by the name of Charlie Green, who was to become a millionaire and some 40 years later brokered a much-publicised take-over of Glasgow Rangers following their enforced demotion from the Scottish Premiership.
However the scheduled tie at South Shields was postponed on the scheduled Saturday in November, just three days after an F.A.Cup First Round replay defeat at Blyth Spartans, which had kicked off at 1.30pm due to Prime Minister Edward Heath's ban on the use of floodlights during the power strikes of the time.
Nearly the entire squad was involved in the Teaching profession one way or another, and having needed to stay overnight at Whitley Bay for the Blyth encounter could not get permission for another break the following mid-week for the South Shields re-scheduled tie, which was again due to be played at lunch-time. Consequently the club advised the opposition and the Football Association that the fixture could not be fulfilled unless it could be played on a Saturday, but neither of those parties budged and two committee members - Bill Draper and the late Ted Smith were despatched to Tyneside on the day to make sure that the pitch was playable, the match officials and opposition were present and that the match could have been played.
ln the event the pitch was ice-bound, none of the home supporters had been told the match was unlikely to take place and the reception was frosty and somewhat hostile when the two delegates arrived - but Alfreton were thrown out. To make matters worse the next round had paired Matlock Town at home with South Shields in early January, and after a postponement the F.A. allowed the re-scheduled tie to take place the following Saturday - the fall-out from that decision almost ended up in the courts.
Season 1975/76 saw Alfreton draw twice with Darwen before winning 1-0 at neutral Droylsden - long before playing Droylsden several times in the Northern Premier League, and to this day that remains Alfreton's only win at the Butcher's Arms ground. Alfreton had John Beresford sent off in the first replay at Darwen, but were aided by the Lancashire side's captain being dismissed in the first minute of the second replay before Steve Tunstall grabbed the Reds' winner.
Accrington Stanley came to Alfreton and won 2-0 in 1979/80, then two games of note took place two seasons later - firstly a 4-2 home win over Darlaston, which was played at Matlock because the Town Ground was unplayable after a disastrous attempt to resurface it on the cheap - secondly a bizarre game at Colwyn Bay, which Alfreton were well in charge of at the hour mark through Simon Worthington's first half goal. Suddenly though the skies darkened, a storm swept through Eirias Park, the rain lashed down, Colwyn Bay slammed five goals past the Reds.
Defeats were recorded over the ensuing years against Accrington Stanley again and Burton Albion before Alfreton recorded a memorable win at Northern Premier League giants, South Liverpool by a solitary goal on Merseyside in season 1984/85 - a season in which keeper Ken Shaw started all 61 games.
A right geographical mixture two years later saw Gretna beaten after a 4-2 midweek replay across the border, Mossley then dispatched 3-0 at home, before travelling to Wales to lose 0-1 at Caernarvon. Nothing stood out until another low point that arrived on 8th November 1997, losing 1-9 at Solihull Borough in a match played at Moor Green, before those two clubs merged to become Solihull Moors.
A 2002 trip to the mighty Stafford Rangers brought Alfreton a 2-0 win, thanks to goals from Carl Bradshaw and John Knapper, which was the 16th victory of a record-breaking 17 successive wins for the Reds. Kettering Town were the next high-profile team to be eliminated in 2004/05 before losing at home to Woking.
Perhaps the highlight of the Reds' entire history in the F.A.Trophy was the unforgettable 6-3 win in a replay at Cambridge United on 18th January 2011, which included a Paul Clayton hat-trick - the first time that Alfreton had ever beaten a Conference National side.
Today, the 2016/17 season has seen the Reds find form in the F.A. Trophy, a Third Qualifying Round 4-1 Replay win over Gainsborough Trinity was followed by a 1-0 win over Conference side North Ferriby United at the Impact. With Alfreton’s best success being the Fourth Round in both 2002/03 and 2004/05, can the Reds progress past Boreham Wood on Saturday to edge ever closer to achieving another excellent run in the competition? Kick off this Saturday is 3pm.