Alfreton Town recorded one of their finest ever results when they overcame adversity at the Racecourse ground on Saturday to knock former giantkillers Wrexham out of the F.A.Cup.
The Reds have now earned a home tie in only their second appearance in Round Two, and they will host the winners of the postponed encounter between Gloucester City of the Blue Square Bet North and Leyton Orient of League One on the first weekend of December.
With the pack having been forcibly reshuffled due to injuries to key defenders Darran Kempson and Connor Franklin, manager Nicky Law recalled Leigh Franks to the heart of the back four while Anton Brown made his first start since his injury lay-off by covering at left-back.
Both were to be involved in penalties, with Brown judged to have impeded Danny Wright inside 15 seconds of the start while the turning point of the game was undoubtedly home keeper Joslain Mayebi’s rash reaction to Franks’ challenge that earned the Cameroon international an instant red card just before the hour.
And to cap it all Alfreton ended with only nine men, after Dan Bradley and Ben Tomlinson were dismissed for second cautionable offences, but they only had to defend the remaining three minutes of added time with depleted personnel.
Neil Ashton calmly despatched the early spot-kick to give Wrexham a swift advantage, and by the fifth minute Reds’ keeper Jon Stewart had made the first of several match-winning saves from a Dean Keates free-kick.
Stewart superbly parried an effort from Stephen Wright two minutes later, but Alfreton eventually pieced together an enterprising move in he ninth minute when skipper Nathan Arnold whipped a cross in from the right that Mayebi fumbled before chasing after the loose ball to recover it.
Theo Streete scuffed a shot wide from 22 yards from Arnold’s by-line pull-back, then Tomlinson headed over as the Reds came more and more into the reckoning.
A 23rd minute cross from Daniel Meadows found Streete unable to take advantage close in, but Alfreton drew level three minutes later following a rasping 25 yard free-kick from Josh Law that the keeper failed to hold, and Paul Clayton followed up from three yards to hammer the ball into the net.
Law then had to clear Danny Wright’s drilled shot off the line at the other end, before a strong central run by Adrian Cieslewicz in the 32nd minute led to Wright’s powerful shot being parried once again by Stewart before Jay Harris fired hopelessly wide.
Three more saves by Stewart denied Danny Devine, Danny Wright and Stephen Wright as Wrexham ended the first half in the ascendancy, then as Alfreton began well after the break Devine had to clear off the line from Clayton in the 57th minute.
Two minutes later though the tie swung heavily in the Reds’ favour, with Mayebi’s dismissal after taking a swing at Franks as he was challenged when catching a cross from the right.
Understudy Andy Coughlin took over between the posts with Wrexham removing Cieslewicz from the equation, and despite the long wait that always ensues when keepers have to be exchanged Bradley remained calm to thump the penalty low past Coughlin to give Alfreton a 2-1 lead.
Bradley’s composure only lasted a further two minutes unfortunately, because he too was sent off after a second yellow card had been brandished for a reckless foul on Harris and numerical parity had been restored.
A quiet period of readjustment for both sides was shattered in the 79th minute when Maedows’ cross completely carved open Wrexham’s defence and left Tomlinson with only the keeper to beat at the back post, a task which he duly obliged although he needed a second touch three yards out.
A deep free-kick from Arnold needed tipping over the bar by Coughlin on 83 minutes, but the Welshmen pulled the score back to 2-3 two minutes later when Danny Wright weaved a Nick Rushton pass through Stewart’s legs from ten yards.
A magnificent double save 60 seconds later saw Stewart parry from Rob Ogleby before saving Danny Wright’s follow-up, then with time ticking away the man of the match again saved from Ogleby amid desperate shouts from the home contingent for a penalty earlier in the move.
Two minutes into stoppage time the tie was finally settled and Alfreton could pocket there £18,000 prize money when Wrexham defender Ashton tamely passed the ball straight to Tomlinson and he finished with aplomb before being very harshly issued with a second caution for taking his goal celebrations to the home crowd.
ALFRETON: Stewart; Law, Killock, Franks, Brown, Meadows, Streete, Bradley, Arnold, Tomlinson, Clayton (Quinn 88 mins). Subs not used: Russell, Worsfold Taylor, Barnes.
Attendance: 2409 (129 from Alfreton).