Alfreton Town finally hurdled the first obstacle in their 2017/18 FA Cup season when they won their Second Qualifying Round replay at AFC Rushden & Diamonds on Tuesday night, after recovering from a 0-2 setback in the original tie.
Brendon Daniels was instrumental in the Reds’ 3-1 win at Hayden Road, delivering a 32nd minute free-kick with pin-point accuracy for Tom Allan to open the scoring with a far post header.
Then after Rushden had levelled through Luke Fairlamb’s opportunist strike in first half added time Daniels curled a another free-kick directly into the net with 17 minutes remaining, after Andre Johnson had been checked on the edge of the area.
Ricky German settled the issue for Alfreton in the 86th minute, his block tackle with Blaize Punter 12 yards out fortuitously spinning into the net off the foot of the post, following Bradley Wood’s driven cross from the right.
Daniels had also struck the upright in the 41st minute with a stinging drive, but the early stages were mainly about the home side.
Gradually the Reds took control though on a difficult pitch, and despite picking up three first half bookings for Wood, Allan and Cieron Keane looked the stronger team as the interval approached.
Reds’ keeper Chris Elliott was uncharacteristically caught in two minds when faced with Fairlamb in the 14th minute, but Luke Shiels was on hand to mop up.
Alfreton managed their first telling attack six minutes later, but Craig Westcarr could not quite latch on to German’s cross.
A low Craig Disley drive was the first to test home keeper Ben Heath six minutes before Allan broke the deadlock, then almost immediately from the re-start Claudio Hoban should have done better than drag the ball across the face of Elliott’s goal.
Fairlamb’s leveller came out of no apparent danger, the winger suddenly accelerating to drive the ball home from just outside the area.
Daniels, despite his massive contribution, put two decent chances wide as the second half evolved, whilst Elliott pulled off two good saves to thwart Nabil Shariff.
A sizzling cross from Westcarr on a left flank run saw German find only the side-netting at the back post on 71 minutes, then German and Johnson had successive shots blocked from a Daniels free-kick, but Alfreton should have added eight minutes from time when Ryan Jennings overhit a cross with German homing in on goal.
RUSHDEN: Heath; Farrell, Ford, Punter, Dolman, Bunting, Gyasi, Curtis [Dillon 78], Shariff, Hoban, Fairlamb. Subs not used: Finlay, Boateng, Lorraine, Bell-Toxtle, Brown.
ALFRETON: Elliott; Wood, Shiels, Allan, Keane, Jennings, Disley, Smith [Johnson 37], Daniels, German, Westcarr [Sharp 71] [Robertson 81].
Referee: Will Finnie.