Alfreton Town struck late to beat Mickleover Sports 2-1 to win the Derbyshire County FA Senior Challenge Cup Final after a thrilling encounter at Pride Park.
Both sides came flying out of the blocks, but an early corner, Alfreton set the tone for who would be getting the most chances in the first half.
Aside from Jack Thatcher’s torpedo strike forcing an athletic save out of Alfreton’s Sam Ramsbottom, Billy Heath’s side were responsible for most of the action in the final third.
Danny O’Brien’s back-heel layoff for Jordan Sinnott resulted in a cross fizzing across the box, just missing Gibraltar international Reece Styche’s foot on the opposite flank.
The early chances created a jubilant atmosphere from both sets of fans who shared Pride Park’s west stand, and it was not long until Alfreton’s jubilation stepped up a gear; Richard Peniket’s flick-on found the feet of the lively O’Brien who lobbed Mickleover’s Lewis King to break the early deadlock.
Mickleover came close just before the half-hour mark with Shaquille McDonald rounding the keeper after a counter attack, only to see the ball bounce off the top of the bar after an attempted lob.
The second half continued much like the first, with both sides sharing the ball in midfield but Alfreton seeing most of the chances including a dismissed penalty shout.
Yet Mickleover’s switch to two up front had them looking more dangerous than before. They controlled possession well and Pablo Mills’ physical presence was felt, but they ultimately failed to make many clear-cut opportunities.
That was until goalkeeper Ramsbottom brought down Alfreton’s McDonald in the 65th minute, with the former Derby County youth player firing low down the middle from the penalty spot.
The equaliser saw Mickleover up the tempo and the atmosphere became feistier both on and off the field.
Tough challenges became more frequent and the fans became more restless at every peep of the referee’s whistle.
Mickleover had a great chance on the counter but Mills showed why his natural position is at centre-back, after his first touch gave away an opportunity to take the lead.
The squandered chance proved to be vital – Alfreton Town’s star man Danny O’Brien put the Reds in front just five minutes from time.
The winger picked up a loose ball at the edge of the box and, following a deflection, broke Mickleover hearts with his second of the game.
The referee blew the final whistle and it was favourites Alfreton Town who lifted the 2019 Senior Challenge Cup in front of the 401 attendees at Derby County’s Pride Park Stadium.