Alfreton Town recorded a much-needed win on Saturday, taking the National League North points 3-2 at Tamworth.
It was their first ever win on an artificial surface, just over 19 hours after the Reds’ academy side bowed out of the FA Youth Cup 0-2 at the same venue.
Brody Robertson, who had previously failed to shine in his brief appearances for Alfreton, grabbed his starting chance with both hands by scoring two first-half goals and was unfortunate not to score a third.
Reece Styche twice drew the hosts level in a frenetic first half, played in a howling, swirling wind and rain, but with time running out Craig Westcarr popped up to secure a win for the Reds and send their supporters home happy.
Manager John McDermott was both relieved and delighted, saying: “it was a tough game. I am absolutely delighted with the three points because it stops the little mini-run of defeats in the League, which was two. We are three points off the play-offs and moved up a wee bit.
“Tamworth is a tough place to come - these were eighth in the league and have invested quite a bit plus the surface.
“But we’ve come away and changed our formation to get the good footballers on the park and get sharpness up front and a bit more energy in the team.”
McDermott said the Red were excellent and deserved their goals.
“l thought we could have got a couple more,” he said.
“Brody [Robertson] had a good chance and put it over - he’s just been a pest today.
“l said before the game to Karl and Chris [the assistant managers] that he would get a brace today, because on this surface he would be a nuisance and he was - in fact they took the lad off [Regan Upton] and they had to, because Brody had him in his pocket.
“Brody has got to believe in himself - he took his goals well and l pat him on the back.
“But next week he’s got to go and do it again - that’s what he gets paid for.”
A neat through-ball from Ryan Jennings gave Robertson the opportunity to side-step the keeper and slot home the opening goal on 18 minutes, but Gibraltan international Styche cut in from the left on the half hour to send a curler past Chris Elliott to level.
The Reds, playing with more composure and belief than in their last two National League North outings, despite the adverse conditions, git back.
Brendon Daniels unselfishly squared the ball for Robertson to plant past Tamworth keeper Shaun Rowley after a sloppy error by Upton and restore Alfreton’s lead in the 40th minute.
Upton again gifted Robertson with possession, the striker making a determined run for glory only to fire wide, before Styche struck again on the stroke of half-time with an angled drive from a Darryl Knights pass.
Both sides attacked at will in the second half, with notable blocks by Tom Allan and Cieron Keane thwarting Charlie Shaw and Connor Taylor from scoring, while Andy Burns threw himself in front of Robertson’s 66th-minute drive to prevent a hat-trick.
In the 89th minute and with the game seemingly heading for a draw, a move initiated by Westcarr allowed Keane to send Daniels to the by-line. His cross was steered into the bottom corner of the net from 14 yards by a delighted Westcarr to grab the winner.
Looking forward to the next two games against leaders Harrogate Town at home and away to second-placed Salford City, McDermott reflected: “This League is crazy - you’ve got Leamington beating Salford away, so you can’t take anything for granted.
“All you can do is beat what’s in front of you, or at the least try to win the game.
“There’s been a lot of questions asked about these lads in the last two weeks - are they self-centred, do they just want to play for themselves, do they want to play for me ? There’s your answer today, they put a gritty performance in and, yes, they do - we’re up there above a lot of big clubs.
“l’ve felt a bit angry this week at certain comments that have been thrown at us - we’ve answered them back, but they’ve got to do it again.”
TAMWORTH: Rowley; Burns, Morley, Deeney, Jones, Upton [Curley h/t], Coulson, Verma [Shaw 18], Styche [Reid 76], Taylor, Knights.
Other subs: Fox, Strong.
ALFRETON: Elliott; Topliss, Shiels, Allan, Keane, Wood, Platt [Westcarr 34], Jennings [Johnson 83], Everington, Daniels, Robertson [Sharp 86].
Other subs: Disley, Smith.
Referee: Mr. T.Kirk.