Hednesford Town could well rue this missed chance of three points come the end of the season as Alfreton Town fought back from 3-1 down with ten men to earn a point at Keys Park.
The Pitmen got off to a tremendous start in this hugely important home fixture in their bid to avoid relegation with wingers Modou Cham and Shelton Payne having much of the ball out wide, giving the Alfreton defence a torrid time.
In the 12th minute Payne was brought down as he jinked into the penalty area and the referee immediately pointed to the spot. Then came the first moment of drama as Payne took a short run up to the ball, hesitated and then tucked the spot kick into the bottom left corner. The referee ordered the kick to be re-taken but Payne again made no mistake as he slotted the ball home to give the Pitmen the lead.
After the restart the visitors came back into the game and won a free kick just outside the penalty area and as the preparations to defend the kick were in progress, the referee showed the red card to Alfreton striker Sam Jones for stamping on Hednesford defender Ben Bailey.
The home side doubled their lead in the 23rd minute when Cham was felled in the area and another spot kick was awarded. This time, Payne’s kick was less assured but it squirmed under goalkeeper Matt Duke who had guessed the placement correctly.
In the 32nd minute the visitors reduced the deficit when a corner kick from the right was not defended by the home side and Niall Heaton rose well above everyone to head into the corner of the net.
The Pitmen would restore their two goal advantage within minutes though when Payne was again brought down by the full back and the resulting free kick was headed home by Jack Fitzwater.
The second half started in a much more even fashion with Alfreton Town’s skipper Dan Bradley having a greater impact on the game, his shot in the 52nd minute saved well by Dan Crane.
Adam Thomas came close with a left foot effort soon after but it was the visitors who continued to press and struck next.
Under pressure from a cross into the box, Fitzwater was judged to have fouled his man in the 62nd minute and Bradley converted the penalty kick with a powerfully struck shot.
Eight minutes later the Pitmen’s defensive frailties were once again cruelly exposed when a corner kick into the box was left for Sam Smith to head home almost unchallenged, bringing Alfreton back onto level terms.
The remainder of the game saw the ten men of Alfreton dominating the midfield area and looking the more likely to win the game but in the 89th minute a flick-on from Kyle Perry put Tom Peers in behind the visitors’ defence but as the defence worked hard to deny him a clear shot the ball squeezed narrowly wide of the post.
After taking a two goal lead twice in this game it is fair to say that the Pitmen should have taken all three points but the failure to maintain the first half form and the inability to defend set pieces cost them dearly.
Hednesford Town: Crane, Fitzwater, Truelove, Bailey, Digie, Trainer, Thomas, Williams, Peers, Cham (Perry 56), Payne (Glover 80)
Subs not used: Ransome, Ennis, Robinson
Alfreton Town: Duke, Doyle-Charles, Jordan, Allan (Thanoj 50), Heaton, Nyoni, Leesley, Meikle (Jackson 69), Jones, Smith (Robertson 87), Bradley
Sub not used: Wilson
Star Man: Dan Bradley
Entertainment Rating: Four Stars