Aldershot Town slipped to a 3-2 home defeat to Alfreton Town in the Conference Premier
This was the rather chastening tale of the one that got away. At times suggesting they could win the game in style, three defensive lapses ensured that Shots ultimately got precisely what they deserved.
Beset by injury and suspension, rumours of Alfreton Town’s demise were greatly exaggerated, yet that did not dispel the lingering suspicion that Andy Scott's men had gifted three points to their grateful opponents.
In Joshua Law and John Akinde, the visitors had the game’s two most influential players – and Alfreton probably should have increased their lead in the second half – but Aldershot failed to capitalise upon crucial periods of momentum which could easily have swung the result in their favour.
“We got bullied at the back and we’ve conceded three horrendous goals. It’s not good enough,” was the manager’s blunt assessment.
“[Jake] Goodman and [Adam] Webster have been fantastic for us, but they’ve tried to fight Akinde and been bullied.
"We’ve scored a couple of good goals of our own but I’m very disappointed, because it’s three points that we’ve thrown away. We should be winning that game.”
Shots struggled to rediscover both the attacking flair which has illuminated their best home performances this season, or the defensive solidity so evident at Lincoln City the week before, and all too frequently they lacked the tempo to break down Alfreton’s own resolute rearguard.
Still, though, they twice brought themselves level, only to concede again just minutes later.
Early exchanges were low-key and fairly even, but after Law had created a shooting opportunity for Jake Speight, Aldershot should have dealt with the winger’s free kick.
Having hit the wall with his first effort, the return ball found Chris Westwood winning a header at the far post from which Tom Shaw bundled a shot into the net amid a crowded six-yard box.
Shots then found both the sublime and the faintly ridiculous to first restore parity and almost immediately throw it away.
First, Mark Molesley won the ball in his own half and bent a glorious pass through the Alfreton defence to send Jaydon Gibbs sprinting through to score with aplomb.
Then Bradley Wood’s long throw provoked a poor header from Webster, which allowed Law to pounce with a strong finish past Pope.
Again played in by Law, Speight should have done better than shoot over the crossbar, but as Williams’ hard work on 45 minutes ended with a cross-shot that skidded inches wide, the Shots promised a second-half resurgence.
And within two minutes of the re-start, they were level.
Lewis Young’s deflected free kick won a corner and, when Barker’s delivery was only half cleared, Young’s deft reverse pass created the space for Williams to score from 12 yards.
The third lapse, however, proved fatal, as Akinde threatened to run riot. Breaking free down the right, his cross saw Pope rooted to his line and Oastler unaware of Speight lurking behind him to tuck the ball in from a tight angle.
Akinde created another three fine chances, but Alfreton’s profligacy mattered little as Aldershot, hampered by injuries to Molesley and Oastler, mustered scant response with more than a third of the game remaining.
Capable of much better, they know they cannot be in such forgiving mood in Saturday’s FA Cup tie against Shortwood United.
SHOTS: Pope; Oastler (Rowlands 74), Webster, Goodman, Barker; Stanley, Oyeleke; Young, Gibbs (Paterson 79), Molesley (Roberts 57); B Williams. Subs not used: Douglas, L Williams.
Att: 1,732 (47 away).