Alfreton Town’s pre-season preparations continued with a 1-0 home defeat against a very good passing Sheffield United side at the Impact Arena on Monday evening.
The Reds fared well despite a sharp Blades outfit carving out several chances in both halves and although not having that much possession overall, it proved a good work-out for Nicky Law’s side who honed their defensive duties.
United paraded latest signings, England Under-20s international Conor Coady and striker Lyle Taylor and it was his 54th minute goal which ultimately separated the sides.
Also in the United line-up was Calum McFadzean, brother and son of former Reds players Kyle and John respectively.
The first shot of the game came on two minutes from Elliott Whitehouse for the Blades and his 35 yarder was only inches over the bar.
Alfreton responded well and it took a challenge from Danny Higginbotham to stop Paul Clayton from getting a shot away on goal.
Matt Hill then tamely conceded possession but Danny Meadows couldn’t make the most of the chance and volleyed well over from 20 yards.
It was a good opportunity for the hosts and another one came on 17 minutes when Alastair Taylor’s low cross from the right was met by Clayton eight yards out but he steered his too close to the visiting keeper when a goal looked on the cards.
Lyle Taylor had a great chance for United but fired just over the bar from 12 yards when he too should have opened the scoring.
McFadzean created himself a yard of space on the edge of the home penalty area but drilled his shot straight at Ross Atkins on 26 minutes.
Two minutes further on and Jamal Smith scuffed a decent chance wide of the far post before he brought a superb save from Atkins on his near post with a close range angled strike.
United went close again on 37 minutes when a raking cross from the left from Sean McGinty saw Tony McMahon get up highest at the far post and his header was literally centimetres over the bar.
One minute later, Atkins produced another tremendous stop to deny McFadzean who had found space deep in the penalty area and half-time arrived goalless.
Both sides made a few changes at the break but it didn’t throw United out of their attacking stride and Lyle Taylor burst forward before having his shot blocked by Nick Fenton who put in another impressive display at the heart of the home defence.
Taylor was then denied by Atkins who got down smartly to push a firm goalbound downwards header around the post.
Atkins followed up with a double save as he parried a Taylor shot, Terry Kennedy fired the loose ball against the base of the post and Atkins claimed possession on the floor with McFadzean in close attendance.
The Blades had been building growing pressure and it paid off on 54 minutes when Taylor pounded to fire home from six yards after Atkins had produced another parried save from a McGinty shot.
A rash of changes on both sides failed to halt the flow of the game and after Chris Westwood produced a great block to deny Jamie McDonagh a second goal for the visitors, Alfreton did start to gain more possession as the half wore on.
Sheffield United went close again on 69 minutes when Joe Ironside’s diving header flew narrowly wide of the right-hand post.
With thunder and lightening surrounding the stadium, Alfreton came back into it in the latter stages and almost found an equaliser on two occasions, Tom Shaw’s lobbed effort on 74 minutes was finger-tipped away by Blades keeper Mark Howard and his defence then came to the rescue to end a pin-ball session in the visiting penalty area after Josh Law had got around the back of the Blades rearguard.
United finished deserved winners, but Alfreton can be very pleased with their levels of fitness and determination to stay in the game.
Alfreton Town: Ross Atkins, Bradley Wood, Connor Franklin (Paul Weldon, 58), Chris Westwood, Nick Fenton (Darran Kempson, 73), Tom Shaw (Danny Meadows, 82), Josh Law, Paul Clayton (Aaron Webster, 65), Kristian Ramsey-Dickson (Joel Purkiss, h/t), Alastair Taylor (Chris Palmer, h/t), Daniel Meadows (Cleveland Taylor, h/t).
Sheffield United: Mark Howard, Tony McMahon (Terry Kennedy, h/t), Danny Higginbotham (Aaron Barry, 54), Matt Hill (Jordan Hodder, 60), Ryan Flynn (Joe Ironside, h/t), Conor Coady (Ben Whiteman, 60), Lyle Taylor, Calum McFadzean, Jamal Smith (Jamie McDonagh, 54), Elliott Whitehouse, Sean McGinty.
Referee: James Adcock.
Next game: Alfreton Town v Port Vale, Saturday, July 27th, 3pm.