Keeper Barnes may get chance to stake claim as Stewart loan comes to an end
GOALKEEPER Phil Barnes could keep his place in the Alfreton Town side tomorrow after helping the Reds to a memorable victory over local rivals Mansfield Town.
Barnes made his first appearance since the end of August in the 2-1 Boxing Day success at the One Call Stadium, replacing the suspended Jon Stewart between the sticks.
Stewart is available again for the trip to Nuneaton Town but will return to parent club Burnley after the return fixture against Mansfield on New Year's Day when his loan spell ends.
As a result, Alfreton boss Nicky Law could look to give Barnes a run in the team.
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"Phil did really well at Mansfield, considering he hadn't played for a while," said Law's assistant, Russ O'Neill.
"He's a very experienced keeper and was a calming influence on the team.
"We've got a decision to make but it wouldn't surprise me if Phil kept the shirt, with Jon's loan coming to an end.
"It's a chance for Phil to stake his claim now."
Midfielder Theo Streete is also back in contention after serving a one-match ban but Leigh Franks is suspended and Connor Franklin (ill) and Darran Kempson (hamstring) are both doubts after missing the Mansfield game.
Alfreton celebrated their first-ever win over the Stags and a first victory in six games, lifting them up to 15th in the Blue Square Bet Premier table.
The Reds fell behind to John Dempster's 35th-minute strike but Paul Clayton headed them level and Ben Tomlinson, back from a foot injury, hit the winner shortly before the hour mark.
"It was a great result and, overall, I think we deserved it," said O'Neill.
"We knew what to expect from Mansfield.
"They are a big, physical side and are good at what they do.
"So we had to stand up to them and we did that well.
"We had to be at our best.
"Last time, we played them at their place, we were 2-0 up but then had two men sent off and they came back and nicked a winner in injury time.
"So it was good to see this one out."
A bumper crowd of 4,186 included 350 travelling fans.
"It was a great day for the club," said O'Neill.
"We've had a lot of good results this season, beating the likes of Luton, Newport and Wrexham.
"But for the supporters, this was probably the best.
"We took 350 fans and they sounded like at least 700."
Mansfield could be forgiven for having one eye on their FA Cup third round clash with Premier League giants Liverpool – but Paul Cox's side must face Alfreton again before that match.
"Mansfield have done really well this season," said O'Neill.
"They are pushing for the play-offs and have earned themselves a really good tie against Liverpool.
"I suppose that makes this result even better."
Tomorrow's opponents, Nuneaton, are currently in the relegation places but beat Tamworth 2-1 on Boxing Day and won 3-0 at the Impact Arena in August.
"Nuneaton away is always a tough trip – we know that from our days in Conference North," said O'Neill.
"They had a good win against Tamworth on Boxing Day, so I'm sure they will make it difficult for us.
"We've tended to do well against the top sides this season but not so well against the teams around us and below us in the table.
"So we're looking to pick up some more points."