A stunning four-goal display from stand-in striker Simon Ainge helped Harrogate Town to a 6-3 victory over Alfreton Town at the CNG Stadium.
A central defender by trade, Ainge was pushed up front by boss Simon Weaver for Saturday’s National League North clash, a move that paid off in spectacular fashion as the hosts won in the league for the first time in over a month.
Harrogate didn’t get off to the best of starts, however, falling behind with just eight minutes on the clock when a mix-up between Tom Platt and goalkeeper Peter Crook gifted Mark Shelton the chance to fire into an empty net.
The home side were level less than 10 minutes later though, Warren Burrell sliding in to equalise from inside the six-yard box after JP Pittman delivered an inviting low cross from close to the byline down the right-hand side of the penalty area.
Moments later, the game was turned on its head as Ainge rose at the back post to send a powerful header into the net from Joe Leesley’s corner.
An almost identical goal followed from the same player in the 22nd minute to increase the lead, before Leesley turned from creator to scorer when he curled a fine 20-yard free-kick into the top corner of the net.
Ainge completed a 36-minute hat-trick when he struck the first goal of the second half, 10 minutes after the resumption, smashing in after being teed up by strike partner Pittman.
Former Harrogate striker Paul Clayton came off the Alfreton bench to glance a header past Crook to reduce the deficit to 5-2 after 65 minutes, but it wasn’t long before Ainge was plundering his fourth of the afternoon.
Pouncing on an under-hit back-pass, he finished confidently past visiting stopper Fabian Spiess to restore his side’s four-goal cushion with eight minutes remaining.
Craig Westcarr calmy converted a late penalty to bring the score back to 6-3 after Crook brought down Clayton, but there was to be no denying Ainge the match ball and Harrogate all three points.