ALFRETON Town lost 1-3 for the second season running at Aggborough on Saturday, with Kidderminster Harriers attaining second spot in the Blue Square Bet Premier while the Reds retained 17th position.
The hosts opened with a goal inside 55 seconds, but after drawing level on 29 minutes the Reds suffered a major blow when keeper Phil Barnes pulled up injured, with Leigh Franks having to take over in goal after the break.
In fact Franks kept a clean sheet with a remarkable performance that produced four quality saves, while Theo Streete’s sending off on 75 minutes probably came too late in the game to make a substantial difference.
Just 20 seconds had elapsed when Barnes needed to clutch an awkward Marvin Johnson cross before Amari Morgan-Smith rifled home the opener from ten yards after central defenders had failed to cut out another Johnson delivery from the left.
The Reds had been on the back foot for the opening period, but out of the blue Paul Clayton latched on to a Daniel Meadows through-ball in the 14th minute to force home keeper Danny Lewis to save his angled drive.
Johnson flashed a shot just wide from Anthony Malbon’s 20th minute cross, then Josh Gowling went close for Harriers after a left-wing corner had bobbled around the box.
Then in the 29th minute Dan Bradley’s deep cross from the right was headed in by Ben Tomlinson at the back post for the equaliser after Clayton had helped it on its way, and three minutes later Clayton’s powerful header from a Josh Law corner was hacked off the line by Kyle Storer.
Three minutes further on Barnes pulled up painfully and the game swung firmly in Kidderminster’s favour, the keeper’s immobility certainly contributing to the third killer goal.
Poor defending was chiefly responsible for the second goal on 38 minutes when Gowling’s downward header from Storer’s free-kick was simplicity itself, but a fit Barnes may well have been able to intervene.
The problem was exacerbated two minutes into first half added time when Barnes was unable to reach another Johnson cross and Malbon was able to volley home at the far post.
Bradley curled the ball on to the roof of the net as Alfreton emerged from the break with the intention of taking the game to Kidderminster, then Nathan Arnold went close after jinking into the area.
Morgan-Smith fired into the side-netting for Harriers, but 24 minutes of the second half had ticked by before Franks needed a touch and he duly obliged by brilliantly saving Malbon’s close-range shot.
Law took a return pass from Meadows in the 71st minute before going close, then four minutes later Streete fouled Gowling with both players then retaliating as a scuffle ensued.
Streete’s involvement was interpreted as violent conduct and referee Christopher Kavanagh brandished a red card while Gowling was merely shown yellow.
With numerical advantage Kidderminster were able to once again force the issue, but came up against a defiant Franks who pulled off three more top-drawer saves.
On 77 minutes Danny Jackman looked certain to score until the rookie keeper blocked his shot at close range, then two minutes later Malbon played Jackman through with the latter again thwarted by Franks.
A swift break had seen Tomlinson produce a firm header that Lewis saved, then finally two minutes from time Franks rounded off his performance by confidently beating away a drilled Storer free-kick with a degree of authority.
ALFRETON: Barnes [Arnold h/t]; Law, Kempson, Quinn, Franklin, Franks, Streete, Bradley, Meadows, Tomlinson [Soares 83], Clayton [Boden 71] other subs: Worsfold, Hewitt. Att: 2209 [inc 87 from Alfreton]