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Match Report  |  Gresley Rovers vs Alfreton Town

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26th April 1988

Gresley Rovers vs Alfreton Town

Spot on – Rex Page – Burton Mail

The Derbyshire Senior Cup found a new resting place amid high drama at the Moat Ground last night.

Gresley Rovers, trailing 1-0 from the first leg, ignited a compelling and rugged battle when Keith Hill levelled the aggregate scores eight minutes from the end of normal time.

And, with a tide of emotion running in their favour, Rovers emerged from extra-time stalemate to triumph in a nerve-jangling penalty shoot out.

Rain was teeming down and the clock ticking towards 10pm when winger Clive Arthur rammed in the spot kick which clinched the cup for the first time in Rovers long and chequered history.

Arthur, lately out of favour with manager Frank Northwood and not even expected to play, was suddenly promoted to the status of hero as he was swamped by team-mates and jubilant young fans alike.

It was a thrilling climax to an enthralling battle of wits and will in spitefully inhospitable conditions.

For much of the game it seemed that Alfreton, the hot favourites from the Northern Premier League, would cling on to the precious lead they snatched in the second minute of injury time at North Street a week ago.

Their first half adventure took Gresley’s reshuffled line-up by surprise and only two outstanding saves by Bob Aston deprived them of the goal which would surely have given them an unassailable aggregate lead.

Rovers’ best chance came when Martin Devaney’s goalbound header struck team-mate Joe Jackson on the line. They were still fretting over their misfortune when Alfreton rocked them with a torrent of penetrating attacks.

At the height of the pressure, six corners came at a rate of one-a-minute. And it was hereabouts that Aston stamped his indelible mark on the game, brilliantly turning over Graham Millington’s blistering 15-yard drive and, even more astonishingly, pushing a point-blank range header from John Shirt round a post.

Gresley’s frustration threatened to get the better of them in a belligerently fought second half. Dean Page and Jackson were both fortunate to escape more than a booking after angrily turning on their men and there was a caution, too, for Alfreton’s Colin Thacker as the hostilities continued.

But Gresley got stronger as the game wore on and the lifeline thrown them in the 82nd minute was a suitable reward for their endeavour.

Arthur’s teasing cross from the right was met by the head of substitute Dave Morrison and when Alfreton failed to respond to the danger, Hill eagerly tucked home a left foot shot from six yards.

Though Aston was again tested by Millington, Rovers had the best chances in extra time. Alfreton survived a furious scramble which ended with Hill hitting the side netting and, with four minutes remaining, the diving Devaney contrived to send a six-yard header wide after another superb cross from Arthur.

So, with pulses starting to race at an unhealthy rate, it was all down to the side which could keep its nerve from the penalty spot.

Alfreton substitute Mark Jones and Gresley’s Martin Dick passed the first test, but when Dave Burrows slammed his effort against the legs of Aston, Rovers were in the driving seat.

The next three penalties – skipper Steve Dolby and Jackson for Gresley and Kevin Jackson for Alfreton – were duly converted to make 3-3.

It was not over yet, however, for Gresley squandered their advantage when Aston, surprisingly among their nominated penalty takers, swapped roles and failed to beat his opposite number.

Another heart stopping moment for the home fans instantly gave way to delight, though, when Millington blazed his effort wide.

There was no such problem for Arthur, who smashed Gresley to victory in a manner expected of a player who over the years has deservedly earned the accolade of Penalty King of the Moat Ground.

Gresley Rovers (0) 1

Alfreton Town (0) 0

(Aet. Agg score 1-1. Gresley won 4-3 on penalties).

Scorer: Hill 82.

Gresley Rovers: Aston, Dick, Bromley, Bottomley (Dolby 112), Skeemer, Page, Jackson, Stevens (Morison 58), Arthur, Devaney, Hill.

Alfreton Town: Thornley, Markham, Jackson, Thacker, Shirt, Benjamin, Travis, Denby, Needham (Jones 90), Millington, Burrows. Sub not used: Collier.

Rovers man-of-the-match: Bob Aston.

Referee: J Barlow (Ripley).

Attendance: 542