As a result of Tuesday night’s home game with Brackley Town being postponed, due to a waterlogged pitch, the Bulls next opponents will be Alfreton Town at the Impact Arena this weekend.
Both sides are looking to consolidate their positions in the Vanarama National League North, with Hereford maintaining a five-match unbeaten run. Indeed, on the road the Bulls have picked up 2 wins and 4 draws since they last lost away from home against Kidderminster Harriers on New Years Day.
Defender Jimmy Oates has been recalled by parent club Exeter City, but Hereford will be boosted by the return from suspension of striker James Waite who looked so impressive prior to his red card against Leamington last month.
Simon Wright looks ahead to what could be another crucial game for Marc Richards’ side.
The Impact Arena is one of the grounds we’ve previously visited most often, after Kidderminster and Chester in National League North. Under Graham Turner, we scraped a win there in the FA Cup in 2005 and more recently, Hereford United played several Conference games there. I’ve got to be honest that this is a joyless ground and area. In mitigation, the Reds are our 7th nearest opponents and aren’t in great form so there is two incentives to travel.
Alfreton is a small Derbyshire town, which, even when all the outlying villages are included, has a population of only 22,000. There isn’t much more to say about the town, other than the HQ of Thorntons Chocolate is based here. Check out the Tripadvisor list of “Ten best things to do in Alfreton” and 9 of them aren’t in Alfreton! The solitary local attraction is a war memorial. Obviously worthy, but not likely to tempt people to travel to admire it.
A population of 22,000 isn’t a terribly big base to support a Step Two football club. Alfreton Town were born in 1959, following a merger of two local clubs. Radio Hereford FC have older presenters than that. The club has never enjoyed big support. This season’s average gate is 536, the third smallest in National League North. Unfortunately, for Alfreton this is their 4th season in this League and they are struggling to make progress. They finished 17th last season and this year will be similar. It doesn’t encourage people to go to home games when, like most of the struggling clubs, the Reds gather more points away than at home. It’s their 7 away wins which has largely kept them clear of the bottom 3. With 40 points gathered, they already look safe from the drop. At home, they’ve only won 2 of their last 10 (to end Feb). Those victories were over Nuneaton (and strangely) Chorley. Overall, their home record is won 4, drawn 5, lost 7.
Alfreton are often criticised for their long ball style They played Pulisball at Edgar Street in their 2-1 defeat and there were suggestions that manager Billy Heath would get the push shortly after. He didn’t, probably because he is still quite new to the job and his efforts did get the Derbyshire club into Round One of the FA Cup and the dream televised home game. They were drawn against Fleetwood who always get Non-League clubs in the FA Cup and always beat them in front of the TV cameras. Predictably Fleetwood won but Alfreton were very grateful for the cash.
A few thoughts on Alfreton’s squad. Top scorer with 12 is Reece Styche. We’ve spoken about him many times. Reece is 30, a Birmingham-based accountant and Alfreton is his 18th club. Alfreton sold a player to Chesterfield and used the cash to offer Darlington £60,000 for his services plus no doubt dangling a large salary. Given that Styche also scored 5 times for Darlo, he’s overall third top scorer in the Division. He’s also a full international for Gibraltar. Alfreton’s joint second top scorer is Tom Denton who left in September. The manager does like big blokes up front. Regular partner for 6 foot one Styche is ex-Hereford man Richard Peniket is 6 foot 3. With only 5 goals himself, Peniket is a goal maker rather than goal scorer.
A sympathetic word for reserve goalkeeper Tom Nicholson started one game and has otherwise sat on the bench 37 times without being called upon. There aren’t many people prepared to do that as we know ourselves. Alfreton have used 40 different players this season.
One of the few big news stories about Alfreton in recent years is when Humberside-based Euro -million winner Lee Mullen became a director in 2017. He gave the club a chunk of money. The amount. according to the club accounts, was £85,000.
Onto the ground itself where there are 1400 seats, close to 3 each for the regular attenders. The main stand is a strange mix of seats and small terraces with lots of pillars getting in the way. On the opposite touchline is the Tom McRoy stand. (Tom was a club co-founder who died in 2014.) Visiting supporters usually sit here. There are more pillars to look around but strangely there is no barrier between seats and pitch. Behind the North Street goal is the “Tin End”, a steep terrace with a token amount of cover at the back. Expect to pay £14 adults, £10 for seniors aged over 65 or 16 to 21 year olds. Or students. Children under 15 are charged just £2.
Car parking is limited to a small area in North Street, around garages if I remember. Beyond that, its street parking only. As the ground is hemmed in, there are turnstiles only at each end of the ground.
No clarity yet on segregation. With such small gates, separation doesn’t seem necessary.
For refreshments, be aware the Reds bar inside the ground is for home supporters only. We can get into the Alfreton Town Supporters Club outside the ground in North Street. This is a seven day a week operation, but beer choice is thought to be unexciting. Alternatives are quite limited. The Victoria pub on Nottingham Road serves two guest real ales. A few minutes’ walk away in Prospect Street is a small new micropub, surprisingly called the Prospect Street Micropub. This offers a choice of four rotating real ales and two ciders. Neither establishment offer food.
The local Wetherspoons is the Waggon and Horses in King Street, which is 15 minutes’ walk away. Six real ales, including guests and their regular food offering.
Not plugged a coffee and cake venue for a while. Made at No 18 in Church Street is a highly rated licensed café bistro (no 3 out of 51 in Alfreton) serving homemade food. Just one street away from the War Memorial.
By Car: 244 miles return (DE55 7FZ) Leave M1 at j28 onto the A38 towards Derby. Follow for 2 miles then take the slip road onto the B600. Turn right at main road towards the town centre. After half-a-mile, immediately after Catholic Church on left, turn left into North Street for the ground.
By Train: Yet another fixture where its easier to travel from the Smoke than the Shire. From Hereford, train travel is over 3 hours each way, with 2 or often 3 changes. Hard work. From London St Pancras, Alfreton is reachable in just over two hours with only one change at Chesterfield.
By Reg: Full size coach leaves Radfords at 9.00am. Seats are £20 for adults and half price for children. Hereford Awaydays Facebook is the place to go.