Alfreton Town failed to capitalise on two very good performances against Southport and Forest Green Rovers when they came up against a mediocre Braintree Town side on Saturday.
Their 2-1 defeat in Essex meant that the Reds had conceded six doubles to teams in the Vanarama Conference - one more than in their inaugural season - and it was only a late, late consolation from Lathaniel Rowe-Turner that eased the pain.
One of the most benign halves of football saw the home side muster just two attempts at goal to none from the visitors before the break, but thankfully the second half turned out to be somewhat livelier.
Manager Nicky Law fielded an unchanged side from the midweek draw with central defender Callum Howe still injured, an early foray to the by-line by John Johnston the only point of enthusiasm for the travelling support during the first 28 minutes.
It took that amount of time to threaten the Braintree rearguard again, when Lee Stevenson’s back header from a Niall Heaton throw needed saving by home keeper Nick Hamann, although it was drifting off target.
Meanwhile Jason Mooney made routine saves from Kenny Davis after four minutes and Simeon Akinola 36 minutes later, while Chez lsaac did find the net on ten minutes but the whistle had already been blown for off-side.
Alfreton did stage a late rally before half-time with three successive corners, all to no avail, then as the second half evolved Mooney needed to save from a Sean Marks header and an Isaac cross.
Johnston’s jinking run on 51 minutes led to Bradley Wood slicing wide from the edge of the area, then Hamann was finally tested four minutes later from Stevenson’s stretching header in receipt of a Jordan Keane cross.
Mooney did well to palm away a Mitch Brundle angled drive following a darting run by Akinola in the 61st minute, but the Reds’ keeper could not prevent Marks’ free header from a Dan Sparkes corner finding the net a minute later.
There was a reprieve when Isaac blazed over from a great position after 66 minutes, but four minutes further on the writing was on the wall when Akinola’s free-kick was allowed to bobble around the area unchecked before lsaac made sure this time from close range to double Braintree’s advantage.
Kark Hawley could not quite squeeze Heaton’s 71st minute cross in the right direction as he was heftily challenged at the back post, then Mooney prevented further damage with a superb save as Marks and Sparkes combined again to produce a downward header.
Heaton’s long penetrating throw two minutes from time caused a minor panic, with the partial clearance falling to Andi Thanoj 12 yards out, but the Reds’ sub was way off target.
Wood then advanced with determination only to run into a posse of defenders, but in the third minute of added time there was at last something to cheer about even though it was far too late to affect the outcome, Rowe-Turner on hand to head home from six yards after Wood’s rasper had proved too hot for Hamann to keep hold of.
Alfreton: Mooney; Keane, Graham, Rowe-Turner, Heaton, Johnston (Howell 62), Shaw (Leesley 64), Bradley (Thanoj 82), Wood, Stevenson, Hawley. Subs not used: Ironside, Flynn.