Alfreton Town were beaten 3-1 by Braintree Town on Saturday as they slid to their fifth defeat on the road, with only a late Bradley Wood goal for consolation.
The 89th minute strike from the defender - his first for the club - did however maintain a run of 11 scoring games since the Reds failed to register a goal in the season’s opener at Dartford.
It was also the first time that Alfreton had lost successive Conference Premier games since their previous visit to Braintree six months ago to the day, which had been followed by a home defeat to Lincoln City.
There was one change that had seen Josh Law making his first start since taking to fatherhood, which meant Dan Bradley standing down, but there was to be a setback at half-time when key defender Nick Fenton had to withdraw through a recurring calf problem.
Notably all the goals were conceded after Fenton’s departure, but the Reds created few chances throughout the game while the host’s patient approach paid dividends.
John McGrath’s second minute free-kick needed fisting away when home keeper Nathan McDonald spotted it late in flight, then in the fourth minute Job Ayo Akinde’s by-line cross was turned behind by Alan Massey under pressure from Paul Clayton and Daniel Meadows.
At the other end Matt Paine’s lunge at Kenny Davis’ cross from the right flashed past Ross Atkins’ post, then Meadows dragged a chance wide from just outside the Braintree area.
It took defenders Sam Habergham and Massey to halt Akinde’s progress as he jinked into the area in the 16th minute, then an effort from Davis almost deceived Atkins as it fractionally cleared the angle of the framework.
Michael Wylde had to hack clear as Chez Isaacs picked out Paine in the 22nd minute, then Wylde calmly steered the ball back to Atkins with a diving header as Charlie Strutton chased a long throw.
Atkins held Massey’s header from a Strutton free-kick in the 31st minute, then four minutes later Strutton unleashed another dead-ball kick that needed tipping over at full stretch by the Reds’ keeper.
The corner led to Fenton having to clear from James Mulley’s powerful header, then Strutton blasted over from a decent position as Alfreton had to absorb a quantity of pressure.
However the visitors almost took a 45th minute lead when McDonald had to claw away a McGrath free-kick with Fenton homing in at the back post.
Akinde’s back header from a long Wood throw was held comfortably by the Braintree keeper three minutes after the interval, then McGrath volleyed inches wide after Akinde’s shot had been blocked.
Akinde fired wide from 12 yards, although McGrath’s pass was running away from him, but Alfreton fell behind in the 61st minute from a simple break upfield that basically caught them out.
Mulley was the instigator with a pass down the left flank that allowed Strutton to cut in unchallenged and bury the ball in the far corner of the net from a diminishing angle, then four minutes later a long menacing run by Mulley ended with a wayward shot.
Atkins saved Sean Marks’ effort from 18 yards, then for a short spell the Reds had three attackers on display after Danny Wishart had replaced Meadows, but during that period it was the home side that went closest to scoring through Marks with a header that flashed wide and another that was saved by Atkins.
Ironically it was midfielder Tom Shaw who then had the best chance, hooking wide from Wood’s 77th minute throw before Dan Bradley replaced Clayton two minutes later.
Bradley was soon in action though, latching on to a Lathaniel Rowe-Turner cross but unable to inject enough power to test McDonald, then the keeper dropped the ball at his feet and Bradley was unable to take advantage from the sharpest of chances.
Braintree went two goals ahead on 84 minutes when Marks finally found the target, but not before his initial shot had rebounded to him off the foot of the post following another strong, penetrating run by Massey.
Three minutes later sub Dan Sparkes put the issue beyond the Reds with a simple tap-in after Massey’s shot had been parried by Atkins, then Wood pounced from a very tight angle to complete the late scoring flurry after Akinde had forced the ball almost to the right-hand by-line.
It was that delivery from Marks & Sparkes though that was just what the home side had ordered.
ALFRETON: Atkins; Wood, Fenton [Westwood h/t], Wylde, Rowe-Turner, McGrath, Law, Shaw, Meadows [Wishart 70], Clayton [Bradley 79], J.Akinde.
Subs not used: Franklin, S.Akinde. Attendance: 927.