Alfreton Town could not maintain their 100 per cent start to 2016 when they were held to a 2-2 draw by play-off contenders Nuneaton Town at the lmpact Arena on Saturday.
However the Reds extended their unbeaten run to eight games and, having already lost twice to their Warwickshire opponents this season, would probably have happily taken a point under normal circumstances.
They were though clearly unhappy with certain decisions that were made by Halifax referee Elizabeth Simms during the course of the game, particularly surrounding penalty appeals for either side that ultimately affected the outcome.
A fairly quiet first half had seen Reds’ skipper Dan Bradley apparently brought down by Nuneaton keeper Jordan Smith in the 13th minute, with only a goal-kick for the visitors ensuing when the only clear options had been a penalty or a corner.
Either side of that Tyrell Waite had found the side-netting for Nuneaton and Reds’ keeper Matt Duke had saved from former Notingham Forest striker Marlon Harewood.
Cliff Moyo sent Bradley scampering down the right flank on 20 minutes, his cross hacked behind by Jordan Keane after Cieran Keane had been left in his wake.
Lathaniel Rowe-Turner, who had played several games in the Conference National for Alfreton in previous seasons, went close for Nuneaton, as did Shane Byrne and Elliott Whitehouse, while similar outcomes were recorded by Lindon Meikle, Sam Jones and Bradley in response.
Just three minutes into the second half Todd Jordan’s block tackle with Byrne just inside the area was deemed a foul and a penalty awarded to Nuneaton, Duke reading Harewood’s spot-kick to parry but unable to prevent the striker from rifling home the rebound.
There was a reprieve for Alfreton three minutes when Harewood found the net again, only to be ruled off-side, but the Reds were back on level terms by the 56th minute when Jones turned three times in the box to find the corner of the net with a low drive, despite being surrounded by defenders.
Then in the 64th minute Bradley’s deep free-kick triggered the most hectic of scrambles right on the goal-line - in this instance sympathy could be extended to the officials as it was virtually impossible to see the ball at close range, let alone from the press-box.
Reports from fans behind the goal though insisted that one defender, possibly Rowe-Turner, had sliced the ball over his own goal-line and another had prevented a goal with his hands amidst the skirmish.
A deflected Andi Thanoj shot was held by Smith, then Meikle twice went close as Alfreton stepped up the pressure, but a momentary lack of concentration allowed Whitehouse to restore Nuneaton’s advantage in the 75th minute when he slotted home a James Clifton cross from ten yards.
Just four minutes later Jones doubled his tally for the afternoon by calmly tucking away Bradley’s cross from the right at the near post to level the score for a second time, and there was still a dramatic conclusion to come.
In added time Jones’ header through left Jamie Jackson clear on goal, only to be brought down inside the area by Jordan Keane, the Reds’ sub picking himself up to shoot off-balance and wide, and as the referee had decided to play an advantage and no penalty was awarded.
ALFRETON: Duke; Moyo, McGowan, Jordan, Allan, Bradley, Thanoj,Leesley, Meikle, Jones, Smith (Jackson 71). Subs not used: Robertson, Wilson, Nyoni, Heaton.