Alfreton Town’s last chance of any cup success this season disappeared in the cold night air at the lmpact Arena on Tuesday, as they tamely bowed out of the Derbyshire Senior Cup at the hands of neighbours Matlock Town.
The Gladiators may have scored from three of the six attacks they had mustered in 90 minutes, Alfreton may have dominated possession and been somewhat unfortunate to only score once, but there were so few positives to take out of this performance from a Reds’ perspective as Matlock eased through to the semi-finals.
Alfreton began promisingly as they tried to take the tie by storm, Massiah McDonald forcing visiting keeper Jon Kennedy to tip over from Bradley Wood’s second minute cross, but from their first venture into Reds’ territory Matlock took a simple sixth minute lead when Phil Roe’s cross was swept in by Liam Needham.
Luke Graham had two back post headers blocked as Alfreton racked up a sucession of corners, then Karl Hawley was thwarted by both Kennedy and former Reds’ defender Lawrence Gorman.
Matlock had both Adam Yates and Roe substituted with injuries before half an hour had elapsed, a bizarre moment ensuing when McDonald carried Roe off after being treated on the far side of the pitch.
A diving save by George Willis to keep out Joe Leesley’s diving header after Andre Johnson had played Jason Stokes through in the 38th minute was the prelude to Matlock taking a vice-like grip on the tie, another ex-Red Michael Harcourt smashing home a spectacular shot from 30 yards to double their advantage one minute later.
Then in the second minute of first half added time Kennedy’s clearance sent Leesley through to beat Willis from just inside the area.
John Johnston injected much needed pace after the break, his 54th minute cross glanced inches wide by Lee Stevenson, then moments later at the other end Ellis Humble headed against the top of the crossbar.
Jake Sheridan fired over from a Hawley cross, Andi Thanoj fared little better from a Sheridan delivery then Leesley’s effort met a similar fate when Matlock responded.
At last, 20 minutes from time, Alfreton found the back of the net when Jordan Keane stabbed Johnston’s cross home from close range, but the Reds took too long to make any significant inroads into the deficit despite a lot of possession.
Both Anthony Howell and Hawley whipped wasted crosses through the goalmouth from either side, then Hawley went close with a near post header from Thanoj’s 89th minute free-kick.
With a minute of stoppage time elapsed Stevenson’s header was fumbled by Kennedy, who then dived bravely at Hawley’s feet as the striker attempted to prod the loose ball over the line.
Alfreton: Willis; Wood, Keane, Graham, Rowe-Turner, Hicks (Johnston 50), Sheridan (Shaw 62), Thanoj, Howell, McDonald (Stevenson 51), Hawley. Subs not used: Smith.
Matlock: Kennedy; Humble, Gorman, Needham, Sabo, Yates (Johnson 24), Harcourt, Ashmore, Leesley, Stokes (Holland 79), Roe (Foster 29). No other subs.
Referee: Nigel Smith (Clay Cross). Attendance: 195.