Alfreton Town 1-1 Warrington Town (National League North)
I'm feeling slightly fatigued after binging on the David Beckham Documentary on Netflix until 1am last night but I'm sure some National League North action will wake me up as Alfreton (5th) take on Warrington Town (15th) with four points separating the two sides after ten games played.
It's my first ever viewing of Warrington who are in their first ever season at this level. A quick Google search tells me the town is famous for nuclear energy. They'll probably need some of that today whilst defending Alfreton's long throw-ins.
The Reds under Billy Heath have a resemblance to a Tony Pulis style Stoke or a Joe Kinnear Wimbledon, nobody in the division enjoys playing them due to their direct and physical nature and they have a hack of winning ugly, it's the first time in 28 years Warrington have been here, I wonder if they know what they're in for?
I certainly do... Alfreton's only half hour or so from home so it's up the M1 to junction 28 and a quick hop on the A38 and before you know it I'm pulling up on North Street where I spot the Warrington team bus outside the Impact Arena entrance.
Dunked into the corner of a local council estate where most of the two bed semi's are these days owned, Alfreton's home is quaint and central giving it a real community hub feel accessible on foot to those who regularly attend.
I'm through a side door as I ask at reception if my name's on the list, directed into the open corner of the ground which slopes down right to left, there's a crowd around the food hatch next to the club shop which is like something from Steptoe & Son's yard. You can't even get in to the shop full to the brim with books and football antiques it has a decorators table set up outside laid out with many pin badges, I notice quite a few from Chatham Town.
A walk around the perimeter takes me behind the open end goal which has netting in front of three or four rows of red seats to stop fans getting a whack off stray balls from the warm up.
The stand that runs down the length of the pitch has a corrugated roof propped up by posts, it looks old and unloved, blue faded seats, in one corner some pitch covers thrown over them in a heap, a doorway nearby for boardroom and hospitality looks like the old players tunnel, the new one now in the stand opposite which is tightly squeezed in with a brick backdrop under a red roof. Behind the goal a banked area of standing room only with a roofed space covering a small section a good ten or more rows of concrete steps up.
I'm in the far corner kiosk asking for a cuppa and am made an unfortunately repulsive instant coffee at £1.20 cash before walking around to the press box where I'm told I can help myself to 'free' tea and biscuits which I do, before putting 50p in the kitty as a gesture of good will, the tea and custard cream helps take the taste of cheap coffee away.
It's a tight squeeze as I take my seat, nicely elevated but only a feet or two from the touchline close to the action, the playing surface sloping down as you sit back against the wall as the sun glistens in my eyes and the players come out to play.
I've got a DATA scout from Derby beside me and the chief tweeter from Alfreton who's a Man Utd fan on my right, the two teams walk out in the sun, Alfreton in red and Warrington in yellow, the away side including former Liverpool defender Andre Wisdom in their line-up.
Wisdom and the Warrington defence are put under immediate pressure by the home sides high press. Dixon is caught dwelling on the ball in midfield and a pass finds Jake Day who blasts his shot wide. The hosts pushing hard and snapping away at their opponents heals, it's going to be that sort of game, not pretty, scrappy, you feel whoever fights hardest wins this particular contest.
It's back and forth front to back as neither team get hold, Clackstone's chucked a couple of long balls down the line whilst Lewis Salmon has had to go off with an injury, It's a shame as I was really looking forward to seeing the talented striker play as I'm told he's done well in recent weeks, he has a few goals for the season and alerted some higher interest, but without him the show goes on and suddenly Alfreton get a throw in midway through the Warrington half, Adam Lund trots over, launches it into the box and Peter Clarke, the visiting team captain, can only head into his own net.
That goal startles Warrington who have to deal with a few more Lund missiles, it seems everytime Alfreton get a throw in the opposition half it's launched into the box. There's not much football from either side but Yellows goalkeeper Daniel Atherton looks a player. He's already raced out of his goal on a couple of occasions to take on attackers and kicks really well. With only a few minutes to half time he's at it again as he runs down the right wing past two Alfreton players before launching a ball to Isaac Buckley-Ricketts who carries and smashes against the post where Matthew Grivosti follows up to level proceedings.
The first half has been scrappy and has been more stop than start with a couple of injuries that have been picked up early by Referee J. Hall. He's dropped the ball back no less than five times already as I say to the scout besides me "I'll give you even money on over 9.5 drop balls."
That target ever nears during a second half much similar, Warrington the enforcers are having a bit more time on the ball as Wisdom teases Day into a challenge before dinking it over his foot and laying a simple pass to a teammate, that bit of class you don't lose as a footballer who's played at the highest level.
Despite Warrington having more of the ball, chances are minimal but the Referee starts having more influence to interrupt the game at every given opportunity. He's racking up the bookings and still stopping the game on an ad hoc basis. We're on nine drop balls going into the final few minutes as he forgets to even tell the linesman how much added time is left in the game. "Paul he's got to let us know" shouts Warrington manager Mark Beesley at the assistant, he's desperate for his side to cling on to a point.
That desperation turns to relief when Cantrill curls over one last chance of a game of very few from inside the area on 90 plus two. The visitors good value for a share of the spoils although Alfreton are disappointing, I tell their chief tweeter "I'm used to them being more aggressive than today" as I feel they weren't completely 'at it' but a point earned is one gained, despite it also being seen as two lost by the fans who largely haven't been impressed.
Home team heroes are centre back pairing Kennedy Digie and Dwayne Wiley who head everything back from where it comes from they're aggressive and old-skool and there's a lot to like in how they defend.
In midfield George Cantrill is one I usually fail to notice when watching Alfreton but not today, he does the simple stuff well and gets around the pitch to good effect, he's busy in the opposition faces and always showing himself for a rare passing move.
Up top big Jake Day puts a real shift in and I like his attitude, Ryan Taylor replaces him late on and improves the Reds aerially but they can't seem to break down the Warrington defence led by former Blackpool and Everton defender Peter Clarke now in his forties alongside another experienced star in Wisdom who both show touches of quality in the game.
The tall ungainly Bohan Dixon is also a handful in midfield and looks like a player who might be more suited to how Alfreton play. Out wide Connor Wood is a threat on the right whilst former England youth player Isaac Buckley-Ricketts has some pace and technique, he's on the cusp but certainly has more to give.
Special mention to yellows goalkeeper Daniel Atherton who's mad as a hatter, he's quicker than most players on show and looks like a frustrated outfield footballer. Hardly ever in his goal and willing to take a chance. He kicks well and can be found running outside his eighteen yard box on a regular occurrence.
Alfreton is a cracking place to watch football but be prepared it won't often be pretty if you make the trip to the Impact Arena to watch a Reds game live. You certainly won't be going to watch an attractive style of play but more to see a soccer venue that stinks of grassroots, one which is tight and testing for opponents who dare visit.
Whilst Warrington did well to come away with something on another day they might have had more. Both sides will feel frustrated with the ineptitude of the Referee on the day which certainly contributed to the match being even uglier than predicted. A share of the spoils ahead of a few handshakes is never a bad result in DE55.
Alfreton Town: George Willis, Josh Clackstone, Adam Lund (Harry Perritt 86), Kennedy Digie, Dwayne Wiley, George Cantrill, Jake Day (Ryan Taylor 63), Liam Waldock, Nathan Newell, Lewis Salmon (James Oliver 12), Billy Fewster.
Warrington Town: Daniel Atherton, Declan Walker, Andrew White, Bohan Dixon, Connor Woods, Isaac Buckley-Ricketts, Mitchell Duggan, Andre Wisdom, Matthew Grivosti (Jordan Buckley 70), Peter Clarke, Sean Williams.
3:00pm Kick Off. Saturday 7th October 2023, North Street, Alfreton (att 552).