Alfreton Town 1 AFC Telford United 1 - Report and pictures
After a spell of games where some fans were beginning to feel that the Bucks early season form may have been a false dawn, Gavin Cowan’s team have rediscovered their mojo.
A second successive 1-1 draw for the Bucks, this time away from home, was lacking in all but one area. Alas it was a crucial one; scoring goals, but it perhaps feels just a matter of time before that clicks too, and the Bucks give someone a hiding.
They warranted much more from their visit to Derbyshire, especially given that they played half-an-hour of the contest with ten men after the questionable dismissal of top scorer Daniel Udoh.
Cowan’s men were galvanised by the setback, and much as they did at Curzon Ashton two weeks ago they responded to what they saw as an injustice by playing some of their best football; given a lead just after the half-time break by captain Shane Sutton, it took a penalty kick from Jordan Sinnott to deny them a victory. Few could have argued had they taken all three points.
It was a first half of few chances. With the wind gusting the autumn leaves across the playing surface, the home side’s Bobby Johnson looked the most likely man to get the bonfire lit. The clever no.10 brought a fine save from Andy Wycherley after 10 minutes, before then contributing to the main talking point of the half.
Udoh was already on a yellow card, handed to him by referee Peter Kitchen for what looked a simple collision with home keeper Sam Ramsbottom, when he went into a tackle with Johnson. It was perhaps a 60/40, and there was little malice in Udoh’s attempt to win the ball, but he caught Johnson and as the Alfreton man rolled on the turf Udoh watched aghast as Mr Kitchen brandished a second yellow.
Cowan urged his side not to panic and to keep their shape, and they progressed to half-time with few alarms. A reorganisation at the break saw them shift to more of a 4-3-2 formation, with Darryl Knights, outstanding on the day, pushing up from his usual position ‘in the hole’ to support Amari Morgan-Smith.
The changes tricked Alfreton, and worked a treat. On 51 minutes, Knights stole in on the left and his attempt to find the far corner saw him denied by Ramsbottom’s reflexes. It mattered little, as from the resulting corner Alfreton left captain Shane Sutton unmolested and he stooped to nod home from close range.
With an advantage to defend you’d imagine the Bucks would have done just that, but no. Cowan always prefers positivity, and sensing Alfreton had little to respond with the Bucks went looking for a second goal. Knights won the race to a through ball to poke just wide, and the Bucks were buzzing.
Reds boss Billy Heath, a seasoned and wily campaigner, threw new signing Reece Styche into the mix, hoping for him to stir things up, and he did, but not as he’d intended. Styche, who cost a reputed £60,000, a fortune at this level, was booked within five minutes, for what Mr Kitchen ruled to be a dive, as he looked to win a free-kick. Within 15 minutes Styche was dismissed, jumping with a raised arm that caught defender Ross White and the Red saw red.
In between those acts it was still mostly Telford; Morgan-Smith shot inches wide of the far post from an angle, and with Ellis Deeney claiming a penalty for shot that he felt struck an arm. However, it was another raised arm that literally handed Alfreton a lifeline on 75 minutes; Henry Cowans blocked a cross fired at him and referee Peter Kitchen awarded a spot-kick, despatched firmly by Jordan Sinnott.
Undeterred, the Bucks still looked the more likely side to take all three points, and went close again before the whistle. Knights’ inventiveness created a chance he fired just over, whilst Steph Morley also shot just over as the Bucks pressed. It wasn’t to be, and as Cowan revealed afterwards, the disappointment in the dressing room was palpable.
Alfreton Town: Ramsbottom, Clackstone, Wilde (Platt 81), Lynch, Hird, Shiels, Bateson, Sinnott, Peniket, Johnson (Styche 55), Clarke (Hobson 67).
Unused Substitutes: Nicholson, Gowling.
AFC Telford United: Wycherley, White, Morley, Deeney, Sutton(c), Streete, Cowans, Royle, Morgan-Smith, Udoh, Knights (Brown 85).
Unused Substitutes: Smith, Bramley, McQuilkin, Dawson.
Referee: Andrew Kitchen.
Assistants: Martyn Fryer, James Bancroft.