LOCAL rivals Mansfield Town and Alfreton Town must try again at the Impact Arena on Tuesday night after a tense but thrilling 1-1 FA Trophy third round draw with a red card for both sides and chances-a-plenty in the Field Mill mud and rain this afternoon, reports John Lomas.
With a noisy backing of 928 from Conference North Alfreton, the high-flying Reds drew first blood in this first ever competitive clash between the neighbouring clubs from either side of the Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire border as former Stags winger Nathan Arnold put them ahead in first half stoppage time.
By this time Stags had seen Kevin Sandwith sent off for a foul as last man on 13 minutes, though it was down to a slip on the wet surface, and the sides then evened up with Darren Stride’s 41st minute red card for the same offence.
Stags’ new front pairing of Paul O’Connor and on-loan Stoke City youngster Louis Moult gelled eyecatchingly well, though both wasted good first half chances.
But Connor grabbed the all-important equaliser two minutes after the break with a close range header, his 14th of the campaign, and the home side had the edge without being able to find a winner.
For Alfreton it continued their superb unbeaten away record for the season, having won all seven away league games, and guaranteed a big crowd for Tuesday’s replay.
In dreadful conditions with wind and rain, Stags defended an early Alfreton corner, won by Arnold on the right.
Connor was furious after not getting free kicks for shirt-pulling by Hall though soon after Hall was spoken to as he did it again.
Arnold almost drew first blood on a seventh minute break, the former Stags winger beating last man Sandwith only to be robbed by Cain as he quickly tracked back to help.
Stags then broke quickly themselves and, when Connor’s through ball held up in the mud and Turner had run out to the edge of his box, it seemed new boy Moult would run past Turner and find the empty net. Instead the youngster tried a chip but was too high.
Connor headed over from a Cain corner two minutes later.
But disaster struck for the home side in an unlucky 13th minute.
A Turner clearance was helped on Clayton to chase. Sandwith seemed to get there first but seemed to slip at the last minute on the tricky surface meaning Clayton had got there first and was then taken down by Sandwith’s challenge.
As last man there were no arguments and out came the red card.
It could have been even worse but Ross’ free kick curled just wide of goal.
Alfreton threatened again on 16 minutes as Hearn got to the left by-line and crossed low, Arnold guiding an angled finish over off the inside of his right boot from five yards.
Connor seemed to be caught by Matt Wilson wide on the right but, with nothing given, managed to get up and continue, cutting inside before rifling over.
Stags took the opportunity to reshape at this point with central defender Naylor on for winger Briscoe.
Connor might have opened the scoring on 21 minutes from a Moult knock-down on 18 yards but again was too high with his finish.
Collett dived bravely and safely to take a dipping left wing cross at the feet of Arnold.
The pitch was cutting up badly by now as the rain continued to fall and the away fans taunted Stags with a cry of ‘There’s only one Keith Haslam’!
We had our first shot on target on 28 minutes as Hearn out-muscled Silk and then fed Clayton for a low angled shot that Collett blocked.
The corner was cleared towards Moult whose first touch let him down and allowed Ross to let fly from 25 yards which again saw Collett well positioned.
Clayton was off target with a header from a Hall cross as the visitors continued to look menacing.
Moult was inches away from getting a far post touch from a curling Cain free kick.
Then Silk did well to head away to prevent Hearn from getting on the end of a Laurie Wilson cross as the Alfreton striker threw himself at the ball far post.
But the numbers were evened out when Stride, who had been in magnificent form, was sent off on 41 minutes.
Connor turned him and tried to go clear but was cynically hauled down and out came the red card again.
When the free kick came in from Cain, Naylor headed wide.
Collett was back in action on 43 minutes, turning a low Hearn shot round for a corner from a tight angle on the right.
As we entered three minutes of stoppage time, the Reds broke the deadlock in the second of them.
With Stags short at the back as Foster lay injured holding his face midway in the Mansfield half, Stags seemed to switch off momentarily and Clayton poked a pass to Arnold on the right who raced into the box before lifting a calm finish over Collett and into the net.
Hearn threatened in the opening seconds of the second half after a mistake by Stonehouse, but Naylor did well to get back and police him and the low finish was eventually wide.
And a minute later it was all square as Connor, inevitably, was again the hero.
Moult spun round the feed Cain down the right and his cross found Connor three yards from goal and his header bounced in off the underside of the bar.
Connor threatened to break clear on 49 minutes but was tugged back by Lawrie Wilson as he shot, the Reds man shown a yellow card, and Cain unable to beat Turner with the free kick, the keeper saving comfortably.
Collett punched away an Alfeton corner towards Ross who missed the ball completely, kicking at fresh air, but was given a second chance and curled wide.
Ross was booked on 57 minutes for an arm across the face of Cain as he tried to race past him.
Stags almost went ahead on 61 minutes as Connor nodded down to Moult who sent Cain away. Brown stayed with him and forced him to check, but he winger looked up, tried to curl the ball round Turner and Connor stole in quickly to get in a header that Turner somehow clawed over.
At the other end Stonehouse was robbed by Hearn who, with Arnold free to his left, who chose to go alone and was crowded out.
It was the same for Mansfield as Cain ran powerfully down the centre but, with Connor better-positioned to his right, went alone and saw his low shot deflect wide.
Naylor’s late tackle on Jake Moult brought another booking before Parker was sent on for the industrious Moult for the last six minutes.
But there was to be no late hero as a full-blooded contest ended all square, which was a fair reflection over the 90 minutes.
STAGS: Collett; Silk, Foster, Sandwith, Stonehouse; Cain, Murray, Thompson, Briscoe (Naylor 19); L. Moult (Parker 84), Connor. Subs not used: Grof, Nix, Mitchley.
ALFRETON TOWN: Turner; Hall (Dillon 82), M. Wilson, Stride, Franklin; Arnold, L. Wilson, Brown; Ross (J. Moult 65); Hearn, Clayton. Subs not used: Keane, Law.
REFEREE: Mark Heywood of Cheshire.
ATTENDANCE: 3,408 (928 away).