Alfreton Town celebrated their first win in seven Vanarama National League North games when they defied the odds to beat high-flying Harrogate Town at rain-soaked Wetherby Road on Saturday.
Before the game a minutes’ silence was impeccably observed following Friday night’s atrocities in France.
Manager Nicky Law was forced to make a change with Tom Allan suspended, Sam Smith given his chance in the starting line-up with Niall Heaton moving to the heart of the defence alongside Stefan Galinski and Ryan Wilson operating at left-back.
However the Reds’ defending was all over the shop in the first half hour of the game, conceding in the 18th minute when Joe Colbeck struck direct from a free-kick, having already been rescued by an off-side flag 11 minutes earlier when Jerry Yates had found the net.
It needed two acrobatic saves from skipper Matt Duke to prevent Harrogate from doubling their lead, the Reds’ keeper somehow reaching a full-blooded Brendan Daniels volley in the 24th minute before thwarting Yates six minutes later.
Alfreton did have strong penalty appeals waved aside in the ninth minute though when Heaton’s long throw reared up to hit Luke Shiels full in the palm of his hand, then a couple of efforts from Joe Leesley and one from Smith were comfortably dealt with by the hosts.
When Daniels upended John Johnston on the edge of the area with 36 minutes on the clock Andi Thanoj knew the free-kick was well within his range of capability, and he duly curled it into the net with aplomb to draw the sides level.
The change in spirit, belief and unity spread like wildfire through the Alfreton ranks and suddenly they were competing rather than being run ragged, and took the game to Harrogate to such an extent thst they might have taken an interval lead when Sam Jones dragged a good chance across the face of goal after a fluent and speedy interchange with Johnston.
Amidst relentless rain and an increasingly boggy pitch both sides did well to create anything significant after the break, but Daniels was soon darting behind the Reds’ back line only to drive over from a diminishing angle.
Nine minutes into the second half another Heaton throw was flicked on by Smith for Jordan Robertson to see his shot blocked at the back post, then a quick counterattack by Harrogate saw Daniels test Duke again with a stinging drive.
Moments later though, and with 56 minutes elapsed, Robertson scored a remarkable goal when home keeper Peter Crook made a dreadful decision in dealing with a back-pass, trying to let the ball run out of play well wide of his goal and almost out of his area.
Robertson persevered, dispossessed Crook and from a seemingly impossible angle squeezed the ball home to the delight of the travelling fans.
Thanoj fancied his chances again when Louie Swain scythed down Leesley on the hour, but his free-kick struck the foot of the post - however the rousing accolade at the time from the Reds’ fans was for their former favourite Paul Clayton who had just come off the bench for the home side.
Inevitably there was some dogged defending to come, but the resolve and determination was by now clearly evident, a goalmouth scramble was survived, then another good save by Duke from Lloyd Kerry and desperately close efforts from Dominic Knowles and Daniels in the closing stages brought relief with the final whistle.
ALFRETON: Duke; Moyo, Galinski, Heaton, Wilson, Johnston (Ironside 90+3), Jones, Thanoj (Jordan 71), Leesley, Smith, Robertson (Jackson 84). Subs not used: Paling, Draper.