Alfreton Town 1 Fleetwood Town 4: VERDICT
Seven years ago Jamie Vardy was the architect of Fleetwood's 4-1 victory at Alfreton, so it was apt the player often dubbed his successor and one determined to take his Town goalscoring crown were at the heart of this FA Cup win.
Seven years ago Jamie Vardy was the architect of Fleetwood’s 4-1 victory at Alfreton, so it was apt the player often dubbed his successor and one determined to take his Town goalscoring crown were at the heart of this FA Cup win.
Vardy scored a hat-trick at Alfreton in 2011 as Town cruised towards promotion to the Football League.
Both Vardy and Town have continued to rise since, the striker becoming a Premier League winner with Leicester and Fleetwood earning another promotion to League One.
Ash Hunter has often been labelled the next Vardy given his non-league heritage, electric pace and eye for goal.
At the Derbyshire club where Vardy stole the show, Hunter scored a goal worthy of the England hotshot, racing on to Paddy Madden’s pass to make it 2-0 in the 20th minute.
But this was not the Ash Hunter show. Madden continued to show why he could become the club’s first 20-goal forward since Vardy in 2011-12, scoring twice.
Madden opened the scoring in the 13th minute - a typical poacher’s finish after good work down the right by Lewie Coyle.
Madden should have had more, perhaps the only blot on a performance that saw him move ahead of Ched Evans as Fleetwood’s top scorer. He had replaced the injured Evans in the starting line-up and moved to eight goals for the season.
His second and Town’s third came from the spot in the 60th minute after Hunter was fouled by Bobby Johnson.
It would have been a penalty in League One but you wouldn’t imagine that decision being made in Alfreton’s usual National League North surroundings.
Madden dusted himself down to fire home but then came a Fleetwood wobble.
They moved into cruise control but their hosts did not get the memo.
A combination of the removal of right-back Coyle with a strain, a shift in formation to three at the back and Alfreton boss Billy Heath throwing on Callum Chettle all conspired to bring about a home fightback.
Chettle, Jordan Sinnott and Richard Peniket had a host of chances but a combination of Fleetwood’s Ash Eastham and keeper Alex Cairns kept them at bay.
It was Cairns’ 100th appearance, though he will not want to watch that goal back. Sinnott whipped in a set-piece that deviated in the air to wrongfoot the shot -stopper.
Cairns got a palm to the ball but it was not enough, though he would go on to redeem himself with some fine stops.
Cian Bolger had been reunited with Eastham at the heart of defence and impressed in the first half but Town looked shaky in defence once Coyle was withdrawn.
Nathan Sheron had become the third defender in that sticky patch, but Town’s comfort was restored when he was switched to right-back in a back four on the introduction of Kyle Dempsey in midfield.
One a day Madden and Hunter revived memories of Vardy, another striker announced his intentions.
Ged Garner is just 19 and marked his third firsts-team game with the fourth goal in stoppage time, glancing home Ross Wallace’s cross from the right.
Questions still over the defence, but with that attack pack Town were always destined for the second round.
It was a day for the forwards and as two established first-teamers made their mark, maybe another star was born.