By Ryan Burr
This Weekend Spartans travel south once more; this time making the considerably further trip to the East Midlands to face Alfreton Town.
Alun Armstrong and his men will be hoping to continue their decent form as of late against an Alfreton side, who like Blyth, have also enjoyed a mixed start to the season- also sitting on four points from the opening four games.
Given the varied starts both sides have experienced, this fixture may well act as an early indicator of the potential fortunes of both teams going forward; as they hope to improve on their mid-table finishes from last season.
Founded in 1959; the result of a merger between Alfreton United and Alfreton Miners welfare, Alfreton Town have only recently reached the heights of the Vanarama National League North.
‘The Reds’ spent much of their early history in the Midlands Counties League, a competition they found significant success in; winning the League Championship on three occasions between 1961 and 1982. At the start of the 1982/83 season the Midland Counties League merged with its Yorkshire equivalent, creating the Northern Counties East League- Alfreton were placed in its Premier Division. Four seasons later The Reds were once again on the up, winning the Premier Division and earning promotion to Division One of the Northern Premier League- the eighth tier of the English league system.
In 1996 the club again achieved significant success, gaining promotion to the Northern Premier Division. This relative triumph however was short lived- a pair of successive relegations soon meant that Alfreton once again found themselves languishing down in the Northern Counties East League.
Refusing to accept their situation, The Reds battled back and after a run of impressive league finishes they were back in the Premier Division of the Northern Premier League; finishing fourth in 2003/04 – a result which earned them a position in the new Conference League North.
More recently; excluding a trio of seasons in the National League in the early 2010’s, Alfreton for most part have remained a constant feature of the Vanarama National League North. However, a series of less than impressive league finishes as of late has almost certainly left some Alfreton fans looking over their shoulder towards the dreaded relegation zone this season.
Joining at the end of last season, manager Billy Heath has substantial pedigree at National League level with successful former Stints at North Ferriby and Halifax town- both of whom he achieved promotion to the National League with.
Heath has made no mystery of his desires to bring success back to North Road- his aim being to take The Reds back to the conference; where he believes the club belong.
The Key Man:
Striker Tom Denton is certain to cause the Spartans defence some issues this weekend given his strong displays so far this season. A man mountain, standing at 6ft 7’, Denton has not only been useful attacking outlet for The Reds so far this season- netting twice already in the league, but also an important man, particularly at set pieces, at the core of Alfreton’s defence.
Known well to manager Billy Heath, Denton played a substantial role in his gaffer’s previous spells of success at North Ferriby and Halifax. Expectations are consequently high that the physical forward can help fire The Reds back up the league this season.
In 1973 Alfreton- in only their second appearance in the First Round of the FA Cup, lost to Blyth Spartans after a replay.