Alfreton Town recorded a much needed win on Boxing Day when they beat Tamworth 2-1 in the Vanarama National League North.
The Staffordshire side will have seen enough of the Reds by the time they complete the return fixture on Saturday 2nd January, because their only two defeats at the Lamb Ground in any competition this season have been at the hands of Alfreton, who had won an F.A.Cup qualifying tie there back in September.
Manager Nicky Law rang the changes yet again, giving Sam Smith his chance to shine up front, supported by wide runners Dan Bradley and Lindon Meikle, a combination that oozed confidence from the outset.
Reds’ fans could scarcely recognise their team from some of their recent performances, such was the transformation, Meikle heading over from eight yards from an Andi Thanoj free-kick in the second minute.
Just two minutes later Alfreton surged ahead when Smith steered home a Sam Jones cross from six yards after Meikle had spread a pass out to the left.
Jones then went close from the edge of the area, Tom Allan fired inches wide from a Thanoj cross and Smith saw his effort deflect into the custody of keeper James Belshaw as the Reds completely dominated proceedings.
In fact Tamworth’s only noteworthy shy at goal during the first half was a wayward Shane Clarke header from Leon Mettam’s 31st minute free-kick.
The home side predictably came much more to the fore after the break, Reds’ keeper Matt Duke palming clear an awkward 51st minute corner under pressure, but an immediate response saw Meikle foiled by Belshaw from Smith’s pass.
Ross Dyer wasted a good chance for Tamworth on 58 minutes, then in a crazy 90-seconds spell on the hour play swung dramatically in the Lambs favour after Smith had smashed a volley against the crossbar from ten yards from a Bradley cross.
A swift break led to a 62nd minute corner, Curtis Strong found himself in oceans of space on the edge of the area and his drive brought proceedings back on level terms, but far from hanging their heads Alfreton bounced back in style.
Meikle went close and Jones had a shot saved by Belshaw, but the Reds were back in front on 69 minutes when the keeper could only direct Joe Leesley’s wickedly inswinging corner into Meikle’s path, and this time the former Mansfield Town winger made no mistake by curling the ball into the far corner of the net.
Tamworth pushed forward relentlessly as they tried to recover their composure, Alfreton survived two hectic pin-ball type goalmouth scrambles and Duke made significant saves from Dyer and Lee Smith before Allan was harshly penalised for hand-ball six minutes from time.
Up stepped Mettam to take the spot-kick, striking it firmly low to Duke’s right, but the keeper anticipated the flight and not only saved the penalty but hung on to the ball.
ALFRETON: Duke; Moyo, McGowan, Heaton, Allan, Thanoj, Leesley, Jones (Robertson 87 mins), Bradley, Meikle (Jackson 87), Smith.
Subs not used: Johnston, Jordan, Spiess.