Branson Header Sinks Alfreton

Bradford (Park Avenue) picked up their second consecutive win with a narrow victory over Alfreton Town, which saw Mark Bower’s side jump to third in the league table.

Conor Branson scored the only goal of the game in the 71st minute, causing Billy Heath’s side to plummet out of the play-off places.

Chances were few and far between in the first-half and neither goalkeeper faced stern tests. However, Alfreton players did had appeals for a penalty dismissed after Steven Drench collided with Richard Peniket whilst contesting a high ball.

In the opening twenty-five minutes, speculative shots from distance were all either side could muster but Bradford eventually had a golden opportunity to break the deadlock. Ben McKenna delivered from deep towards Branson, who headed back across goal but could only watch as Shane Killock volleyed over the crossbar.

The miss seemed to light a spark in both sides and the game livened up as half-time approached. Declan Bacon found Richard Peniket with an in-swinging cross but the forward skewed wide under pressure from Killock.

Jake Beesley reached the byline and pulled back to Nicky Clee, who blasted over the crossbar from just inside the 18-yard box.

After missing an opportunity just eight minutes prior, Peniket turned provider but Jordan Sinnott sent a volley wide after connecting with the forward’s cross.

A corner routine taken straight from the training ground opened up space for Nathan Hotte to shoot from the edge of the box but Beesley’s deflection took the ball over the crossbar and into the stand behind the goal.

With three minutes remaining until the interval, Bacon picked out Sinnott with an inch-perfect delivery from the let but the former Chesterfield man headed wide.

HALF-TIME: Alfreton Town 0-0 Bradford (Park Avenue)

A bizarre incident took place just three minutes after the restart, when Reds goalkeeper Sam Ramsbottom blatantly picked up a pass from defender Josh Gowling. Controversy followed as the referee refused to blow his whistle, causing an incensed Mark Bower to vent his frustration on the touchline.

In the early stages of the second-half, the teams cancelled each other out and both defended admirably, stifling any attempts to attack.

The first clear-cut opportunity of the half fell to Alfreton substitute Callum Chettle, who was denied by Drench after weaving his way past Danny Lowe.

Bradford were provided with two injections of energy as the game approached its final twenty minutes and the introductions of Jamie Spencer and Lewis Knight were the catalysts for an increase in the visitors’ tempo.

The tireless running of forward Beesley had given Alfreton defenders headaches throughout the game but he squandered an opportunity to edge Bradford ahead in the 68th minute. McKenna’s lofted pass landed at his feet and the loanee rounded Ramsbottom, but failed to convert with the net vacated.

His blushes were spared just minutes later, as Branson connected with a corner delivery from Nicky Wroe and powered a header past a helpless Ramsbottom.

The hosts failed to carve open Bradford’s defence in the late stages, despite being in desperate need of an equaliser. Nathan Hotte sent a long-range effort sailing wide and Josh Wilde lashed over from around 25-yards out.

FULL-TIME: Alfreton Town 0-1 Bradford (Park Avenue)

Alfreton Town: Ramsbottom, Clackstone (Clifton 79′), Wilde, Hotte, Gowling, Shiels (c), Bateson, Johnson, Bacon (Clarke 89′), Peniket, Sinnott.

 Unused substitutes: Nicholson, Platt.

Bradford (Park Avenue): Drench, Ross, Lowe, Wroe (Nowakowski 83′), Killock (c), Havern, McKenna, Branson, Beesley, Dawson (Spencer 65′), Clee (Knight 67′).

Unused substitutes: Toulson, Boshell.

Referee: Matt Corlett

Attendance: 487