Manager Paul Holleran remained upbeat despite his Leamington side slipping to a third consecutive league defeat on their own turf, writes Paul Edwards.
There was a marked upturn in the level of performance over the whole 90 minutes but Brakes were simply unable to break down an Alfreton side who executed their gameplan to perfection.
“It’s disappointing obviously because it’s probably been a similar pattern to the last couple of home games,” admitted Holleran.
“It’s frustrating but that was probably our best performance out of the last two or three, and at the moment the results are going the other way.
‘Every game is different. Billy Heath has had a lot of success at different clubs. He builds big, strong, experienced sides who know what to do and how to manage games, and when they go one nil up and they’re playing up the slope here they will do what they have to do to get you out of your rhythm and make it difficult for you. And you’ve got to say that from the amount of balls we’ve put into the box and the amount of crosses we put in, they’ve defended fantastically.
“From our point of view there was a couple especially that you’re thinking ‘can we get on the end of that?’
“But in terms of our levels, in terms of our play, in terms of chances created, play in the final third, I think against a good side we couldn’t have done much more.
“The performance was a notch up. It’s helped having Steph Morley back in. It’s helped having George Carline back here; obviously we’ve had a good look at Dexter today, he adds a different dimension, and the performance levels throughout the team were very good.
“If we keep those performance levels there then all of a sudden I’m sure that these 1-0 defeats will start to turn the other way.”
There were four changes to the XI which started the Darlington game the previous Saturday,with Steph Morley and Joe Clarke returning from being cup-tied and suspended, respectively and loanees George Carline and Dexter Walters both making starts.
Meanwhile, only David Lynch, Danny Clarke and Declan Bacon remained from the Alfreton squad which Brakes had faced in April, highlighting the extent of Heath’s summer restructuring.
The standout moment of the game arrived with eight uneventful minutes played, Bobby Johnson scoring a sublime goal completely out of context with what preceded and followed it.
The visitors’ number 11 took a touch just outside the box before dispatching a stunning dipping volley over a helpless Jake Weaver and into the net.
There were practically no other opportunities of any merit to speak of in the first half.
The game was littered with stoppages, referee Michael Barlow awarding more than 20 free-kicks before half-time and booking four visiting players, one of whom, skipper David Lynch, was forced off shortly after making his challenge and subsequently taken to Warwick Hospital.
Leamington responded well to going behind so early on but they could not manage to take advantage of the plethora of dead-ball opportunities they were presented with.
Walters began to see more of the ball in the second half and it soon became evident that with his pace and quick feet he was posing a problem for the Alfreton defence, to the extent that they eventually put two defenders on him in an attempt to cut off his creativity.
Jack Edwards controlled a ball to the edge of the visitors’ penalty area and spread the play out to the left where Walters sent a dangerous low cross to the far post that just evaded Kaiman Anderson and Josh March.
Great vision from March saw him send a lovely ball out to Walters who this time cut inside before unleashing a powerful shot that was beaten away by Alfreton keeper Charlie Andrew.
The Sky Blues loan man was really making an impact now, creating a buzz among the home support whenever he received the ball and a mazy run ended with another low delivery that was just begging to be put into the back of the net but was unfortunately not anticipated by any of his team-mates.
This did not deter Walters, however, and his mesmerising footwork tied two Alfreton defenders in knots before his shot cannoned off the head of Ryan Qualter and looped just past a post.
Edwards headed Clarke’s free-kick straight into the arms of Andrew, while Qualter’s timely intervention prevented Junior English from a shot at goal. From the resulting corner, an almighty scramble ensued in the Alfreton box before the visitors somehow managed to dig the ball out and clear.
Amari Morgan-Smith had two opportunities in quick succession to seal the game for Alfreton, shooting straight at Weaver with the first and then forcing a strong one-handed save from the goalkeeper with his second effort, the on-loan Birmingham City man scrambling across to claim the ball at the second attempt.
Howls of frustration erupted from the Harbury Lane End as English appeared to be hauled to the ground by his neck as Leamington desperately searched for a late equaliser.
With five minutes of added time almost elapsed there was one final chance for Leamington, the ball dropping to March inside the penalty area but almost as if to sum up Brakes’ fortunes at present, the ball ballooned off his right boot and high over the roof of the terrace.
BRAKES: Jake Weaver, Junior English, Stephan Morley (Jack Lane, 65), Joe Clarke (Kieran Dunbar, 88), Jamie Hood, James Mace, Kaiman Anderson, George Carline, Josh March, Jack Edwards, Dexter Walters. Subs not used: Ben Newey, Callum Gittings, Connor Taylor.
Alfreton: Charlie Andrews, Josh Clackstone, Daniel East, David Lynch (Nyall Blake, 12), Dominic Smith, Ryan Qualter, Josh Thacker, Conor Branson, Danny Clarke, Amari Morgan-Smith, Bobby Johnson. Subs not used: Declan Bacon, Jack Atkinson, Jake Bennett, Harvey Grive.