Alfreton Town boosted their slim National League North play-off hopes with a 2-0 win over Curzon Ashton at Tameside Stadium.
An early Sam Jones goal had the visitors on their way after just three minutes, and Jamie Jackson’s well taken second shortly after the interval meant the three points when back to Derbyshire.
The win lifts Alfreton up to ninth, a point behind their opponents, and 10 points off the play-offs.
It was a ninth game unbeaten for Alfreton and they could hardly have got off to a better start as Jones collected a ball on the edge of the box, turned and fired in to the far corner.
The lively Jackson was a threat throughout, and he came close with a half-volley from a narrow angle that dipped just the wrong side of the crossbar.
He had the ball in the net shortly after the half hour mark, steering home a pull back from Lindon Meikle after the wide man had done well down the left, only to be denied by an offside flag.
Jackson almost did add a second shortly before the break, getting in front of his man to get to a low ball in from the right by Dan Bradley, and forcing a good stop from Hakan Burton.
The striker did get the goal his efforts deserved, remarkably timed at the same minutes and seconds since the restart as the first.
Just two minutes 15 seconds were on the watch in the second half when Jackson raced on to Bradley’s through ball, knocked it past the goalkeeper and then steered comfortably in to the empty net.
Despite the hosts having the advantage of the wind second half, they struggled to make any in roads, coming closest when Niall Cummins clever flick on was wasted by a weak shot from Michael Norton.
Alfreton saw out the game relatively comfortably, to send the travelling supporters home happy.
It was the first time I had seen Curzon Ashton for two seasons when they were two divisions lower than they are now. Alfreton meanwhile had gone in the other direction, suffering relegation from the Conference last season.
Curzon struggled to get possession going forward, as Alfreton’s tall back line dealt with much of what was thrown at the them. Ryan Brooke looked tricky on the right, but Michael Norton was fighting a losing battle on the long ball front.
Conceding an early goal is always a negative, and it seemed that had an affect on the Curzon bench who spent much of the first 20 minutes in the linesman’s ear for allowing a free-kick to be taken about three yards from where it should have been. Said free kick ended up curling over, but that didn’t end it. They then took offence to every incident, be it a throw-in in the wrong place, a 50/50 challenge or even the number of yards at a free-kick. Their irk may have been warranted when left-back Connor Hampson was forced off with a back injury a few minutes after coming off second best in an aerial challenge that went unpunished.
In truth, Alfreton had the measure of their opponents throughout, and Jamie Jackson up front was a menace. Not the biggest, he still managed to win a few headers and he had the Curzon defenders on edge from the off. Curzon have done incredibly well to get to this point, but it’s hard to imagine either of these sides in the Conference next season.
I had hoped to see Andy Thanoj, the former Albanian Under 21 international who I’ve seen on a number of occasions play in the Conference for Grimsby Town, but he didn’t even make it from the bench – quite a come down for a player who turned down a new deal at Blundell Park less than two years ago.
Curzon Ashton: Hakan Burton, Simon Woodford (Benito Lowe), Jonathan Hunt (Connor Hampson), Daniel Shaw, Chris Rowney, Ryan Brooke, Alex Brown, Niall Cummins, Michael Norton (Daniel Cockerline), Joe Guest. Unused subs: Cameron Mason, Matthew Crothers.
Alfreton Town: Matthew Duke, Cliff Moyo, Todd Jordan, Thomas Allen, Brad McGowan, Cecil Nyoni, Joe Leesley, Lindon Meikel (Niall Heaton), Samuel Jones, Jamie Jackson (Jordan Robertson), Daniel Bradley (Ryan Wilson). Unused subs: Samuel Smith, Andy Thanoj.
Goals: Jones 3, Jackson 48.
Referee: Paul Marsden