• George Edmonds

Alfreton blow the lead three times in Kettering thriller

Alfreton Town remarkably let the lead slip on three occasions to leave the Impact Arena with a 3-3 draw and a share of the spoils on Monday afternoon against Kettering Town.

The Poppies hit back each time to leave the Reds winless in eight league games and nine in all competitions - a run stretching back to mid-November.

Early goals in each half from Jake Day and Dan Bradley were cancelled out by Kettering’s Ben Milnes and Callum Powell respectively, before an Elliott Reeves finish looked to have won the points on 81.

But Deja vu struck late on and just like the last home outing against Chorley saw a late penalty awarded, the Poppies grabbing their third equaliser from the spot thanks to Powell on 84.

It took Day all of five minutes to mark his return to the side with a goal, sweeping home inside the penalty area to give the Reds the perfect start in this important battle at the wrong end of the table.

Alfreton continued to impress. Day looked dangerous and was involved in a lot of Alfreton’s early pressing as he pursued a second goal, a long-range deflected effort on 14 and a close-range effort saved on 15 after a brilliant cross by Conor Branson to pick him out typified the big striker’s determination to impress.

Jake Day celebrates scoring the opener. Photo: Alfreton Town FC.

Both sides bizarrely had a goal disallowed in a frantic case of end-to-end action on 23, a beautiful finish by the Poppies playmaker Powell from outside the box was denied for offside, before a long kick by George Willis ended with Day bundling the ball into the net but it was harshly cautioned for an alleged push on Kettering goalkeeper Adam Collin. This was one of nine bookings all together in a hotly contested game at the Impact.

Kettering were starting to grow into the game and deserved their equaliser on 35 when a flighted free-kick saw a shot aimed goal-wards by Milnes but his effort hit Fryatt via his knee as the ball went into the bottom corner, despite Willis getting touch.

The equaliser had been coming after a period of Poppies pressure which saw off target efforts for Michael Richens and Powell.

Despite the setback, the Reds set about restoring their lead and Day nearly did so but was put off by a defender before the break.

However, Alfreton didn't have to wait long after the start of the second-half, captain Bradley grabbing his first of the season by putting away another inviting cross at the far post from the impressive Reeves after just 45 seconds of second-half action.

But a second equaliser soon followed on 53 when Kettering’s Powell found space inside the box and latched onto a cross from the left and hit an effort that bounced off the right-hand post past Willis.

The Reds were looking the most likely and nearly restored the advantage twice mid-way through the second half on 66 when Reeves forced a save from Collin after being played in by Bradley and the latter then fired a guilt-edged chance wide from the resulting long throw-in flick on by Dom Smith.

Reeves then struck and in turn looked to have sealed the win on 81 when he was picked out on the right hand side and showed great pace to nip the ball ahead of Anderson. Reeves then checked onto his left foot inside the box before firing a wonderful shot into the far corner past Collin.

Then with 84 gone the Reds were dealt the third sucker punch with the third Poppies equaliser. Powell showed great feet to skip past Bradley in the box before he was brought down by Day. Powell picked himself up and grabbed his second, securing a late point for the visitors as he sent Willis the wrong way with a composed penalty.

Powell and Reeves had excellent chances for their respective sides late on. Powell fired a couple of inches wide from just outside the box on 88 with Willis stretching to his right. This came after Reeves had missed a chance for his second on 87 but could not quite get the required direction on his shot to win the game for the Reds.

Alfreton played well throughout and showed fantastic effort and attacking quality. But the Reds will see this as two points dropped having gone ahead three times in the contest. It was another game that could have resulted in three points and the Reds will be desperate for the luck to turn and the elusive win to finally arrive.

Next up, they face recent opponent’s and third-placed Boston United for the return fixture from Boxing Day's 2-0 defeat as they visit the Impact Arena in the National League North on Saturday.

Kick-off is 3pm behind closed doors and will be streamed live on ATFCTV.

ATFCXI: Willis, Clackstone, Fox, Branson, Lees, Lund, Smith, Clarke, Day, Bradley (c), Reeves.

Subs Not Used: Atkinson, Rawson, Tuton, Molyneaux, Unwin-Marris.

By George Edmonds