Alfreton Town away. Without doubt my least favourite football fixture on Gods green earth.
My last visit to the absolute hole they call Alfreton was late 2009 and after a tantalising play-off semi final victory, despite the loss on the day, I vowed to never again step foot in the ridiculously named Impact Arena. However, ultimately, I failed to stick by my word and in what is arguably our worst season to date, on a bitterly cold Tuesday evening, I found myself on the way towards the A38.
This season though, the journey was just so much worse. Previously, we were in fairly good spirits. We were 90 minutes away from a play-off final, it was 3 o’clock kick off and the sun was shining. Now compare that to this time round, as we sit bottom of the league, the same league may I add that two years previously we were crowned champions of. We’re BOTTOM of the now named National League North, at the beginning of March, it’s absolute brass monkeys and we’re on the way to Alfreton, who’ve not lost in 13 games. As always, on any away trip, you look out for sign posts, just to see how far away you actually are, despite knowing exactly how long the journey is expected to take. Getting closer, signs for Belper, Matlock and Mickleover started to appear and reassured me, if there was any ever doubt (WHY WOULD THERE BE DOUBT?!), that I definitely didn’t want a return to the Northern Premier League! I mean absolutely no disrespect to them teams in any way, but I can assure you, no Telford United fan will be rushing to book the day off work so that they can head off early to Mickleover Sports. If these signs hadn’t already made me as depressed as I possibly could be, soon after, we had arrived. Welcome to Alfreton.
The trouble with fixtures at this level, is you have next to no chance of finding a supporters car park and if you are lucky enough to come across one, it’s definitely already full. You will almost definitely be parking your car on a side street which requires a 67 point turn to get out of and that’s exactly what we did. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention I wasn’t actually running the whole way and Callum was driving with Liam as co-pilot. Anyway, where were we… Oh, Alfreton. So yeah, the car was parked.
Approaching the turnstile and reading ‘Adults – £14’ really did make me chuckle. Do you really think I’m paying £14 to enter the worst football ground in existence!? “Under 16, please.” – The bloke on the gate looked at me with a very puzzled look, but allowed me through anyway. As I made my way through and looked up, it was upon me again and as I zipped up my coat and reposition the hat on my head, instantly I asked myself that question again… “What on earth am I doing here?”. Callum and Liam went over and joined the average contingent of away supporters that were already position behind the goal and I headed in the direction of the club shop. Who doesn’t pick up a programme and a pin badge from an away game?! Well, I wish that was me. £2 for a programme that was of the same quality as the one I’d picked up two weeks prior, at a Midland Football League fixture. Well, it is Alfreton.
We arrived relatively close to kick-off so by the time I’d picked up my collectables, it was time for kick-off, so a power walk to join the other behind the goal commenced. Both teams emerged from the changing rooms and a quiet applause was heard, followed by the traditional ‘TEEEEEEEEELFORD! TEEEEEEEEELFORD!’. God. It really did have the proper 0-0 feel about it. As the game began, I think all 50/60 travelling supporters were surprised by the roar that came from behind us. Alfreton supporters had seemingly crept behind and took up their new vantage point. “Wanna go round there?” “Aye. May as well.” – The good old switch of ends. Did I mention that this game had a 0-0 feel? It really did. Absolutely nothing from either side and as the first half drew to a close, a small group headed for the bar. This is where you’ll hear the only good thing I have to say about Alfreton Town Football Club. Their bar is top notch. Football memorabilia covering the walls and ceiling and friendly bar staff, too. The strangest thing was that we were joined by Solihull gaffer Marcus Bignot and his assistant. He can’t be worried about us, SURELY?! Anyway, time for the second half… Fantastic…
In typical fashion, the inevitable happened and we went 1-0 down. It’s as if this has happened before, right? But my God, the equaliser really did liven the place up. Josh Wilson pulls Telford level and it’s as if we’ve just booked our place in the FA Cup final. So much that I had no idea how to react, so in the euphoria, I just struck someone in the chest… Thankfully he was as happy as I was by the goal and followed it up with a hug! YEEEEAH! Oh, wait. Did I get excited? 2-1. 2-1 down to Alfreton and the silence is deafening. Well, after three seconds of cheers from the home support before they went back to sitting on their hands and being quiet. They are unbeaten in 13 games. What did we expect?! Wait, a free-kick to Telford in a fairly dangerous position!? No excitement built. We’re bottom for a reason. “I bet he f**king hits this!” was the only thing heard… BUT UP POPS WILSON AGAIN! WERE LEVEL AGAIN! Do we start to believe?! Can we go on and win?! If we did think that, them thoughts were soon squashed as Mike Grogan, the midfielder, occasionally worst defender in existence, was stripped and ready for action. A point away at Alfreton isn’t a bad result. I mean, they’re in unreal form and looking good for the pla…. CONNOR MCCARTHY!!!! CONNOR MCCARTHY!!!!! CONNOR MCCARTHY!!!!!!!! 3-2 and the usually vocal contingent hopped over and bobbed under every crush barrier, headed straight for the players! Are we actually gonna do it on a cold Tuesday night in Alfreton!? A nervy 7 minutes, plus stoppages, now lay in wait and after every obscenity you could think of flew from my mouth, the whistle blew! THREE POINTS! A WIN! WERE NO LONGER BOTTOM! The players applauded the fantastic following and of course Camps lost his cool and looked as if he was gonna attack the floor as he roared in jubilation!
Okay, okay. So my trip to Alfreton was no where near as bas as I expected. If anything, probably the best trip I’ve ever had there, trumping the play-off win. But it still remains the worst place ever.
Until next time…