Sutton Coldfield belied their bottom of the table position to make Altrincham work hard for the three points. The home side started poorly and had Hawley got in a better shot the hosts could have been behind inside forty seconds. Indeed, it was the Royals who took the lead, in the 13th minute, when Alty stood off Hawley and allowed the former Stafford man to feed the overlapping Lyttle. From right of goal he drove a fine, low shot past Thompson.
Altrincham slowly improved and they levelled the score eight minutes later. A superb 22 yard shot from Harrop gave keeper Brown no chance.
On a soft surface Altrincham found it hard to create clear openings and it took a penalty, ten minutes from time, to decide the outcome. Hancock got to a ball just inside the box fractionally ahead of a defender who tripped him to concede the spot-kick. Johnston coolly converted the penalty, having come on as a substitute during the second half after an injury lay-off.
The action was not over as Sutton Coldfield substitute Dell lasted just four minutes before punching Harrop in reaction to a foul by the Alty man and being shown a red card in the 89th minute.
REFEREE: Mr Ian Gittins
John Johnston and Tom Hannigan had missed recent matches through injury but JJ was on the bench today, where he was joined by Mason Walsh, who had returned from a loan spell with Hednesford Town.
ALTRINCHAM (Red and white striped shirts, black shorts, red socks) 1. Tony THOMPSON, 2. Shaun DENSMORE, 3. Connor HAMPSON, 4. James JONES, 5. Ben HARRISON, 6. Jake MOULT (c), 7. Tom PEERS, 8. Max HARROP, 9. Jordan HULME, 10. James POOLE, 11. Josh HANCOCK. Subs: 12. John JOHNSTON, 14. Simon RICHMAN, 15. Andy WHITE, 16. Mason WALSH, 17. Josh AMIS
SUTTON COLDFIELD TOWN (All blue) 1. Jonathan Brown, 2. Tyler Lyttle, 3. Lewis Probert, 4. Lee Smith, 5. Regan Upton, 6. James Beresford, 7. Checkaine Steele, 8. Danny O'Callaghan (c), 9. Justin Richards, 10. Karl Hawley, 11. Niall Flint. Subs: 12. Dexter Walters, 14. Reece Webb, 15. Dominic Dell, 16. Max McNulty.
This was the Royals first ever visit to Moss Lane. Alty had won the reverse fixture 4-0 at Coles Lane but the Midlanders had made sweeping changes to their personnel since then and came into this match with seven points from their previous four games.
After a minute's applause in memory of Altrincham supporter David Cameron who sadly had died recently, aged 32, the game got under way with the Royals kicking off towards Golf Road. They started brightly and after just 37 seconds they created a clear opening but Hawley's shot went straight to Thompson.
Alty's shaky start continued as Densmore was forced to concede a corner from a right-wing cross (2 mins). Belatedly Alty got forward via a counter attack, which ended with a Poole shot to the keeper. Alty's jittery showing continued as Harrison almost sliced a cross into his own net and conceded a corner (6 mins).
Slowly Altrincham improved. When Hancock was fouled on the front edge of the box, the referee did well to play on till Poole's resulting shot went wide then he awarded the freekick. Upton was booked for his challenge (11 mins).
The visitors got the reward for their enterprising opening when Hawley was allowed space and fed the overlapping right-back, Lyttle, who drove home a fine shot from the right to make it 0-1 (13 mins).
After Harrop, who had a fine game, had got into the Royals' box, Hancock won a corner from a move which had been initiated by Moult's fine ball (17 mins). Another good move ended with Densmore deep inside the visitors' box before Hancock won his side a corner. After this a Hancock shot deflected out of play for another corner (20 mins).
From the corner, the ball came out to Harrop who hit a 22 yard screamer into the net to make it 1-1 and emulate his goal against Ashton United (21 mins).
Alty applied some more pressure now and won a corner as the visitors scrambled the ball away. Following this, Hulme swivelled smartly but his shot went just wide (24 mins). The Alty striker also won a corner three minutes later but Sutton Coldfield were still well in the game as a Steele shot flattened Jones momentarily.
When Smith tripped Harrop, 25 yards out centrally, Poole miscued the freekick wide. Alty did better when Hulme jinked along the right touchline and his cross found Densmore whose shot went narrowly wide from close range (34 mins).
With all the rain this winter, it was no surprise that the pitch was cutting up, especially along Alty's inside left channel. Play now stopped to allow Densmore, who had taken an earlier knock, to be replaced by White at right-back (38 mins).
Alty's improvement continued as Hulme again did well and his shot gained a corner on the right but this came to nothing. The hosts continued to press as Harrop, then Hampson and then White all got forward only for the hardworking Sutton defence to halt their progress. As half-time approached, the visitors got forward but Steele's shot was saved by Thompson, low down (43 mins).
In added time, the visitors' keeper Brown was booked, a little harshly, for timewasting. So the teams enjoyed parity at the interval. After a poor start, Alty had improved but the Royals had looked far from being a bottom of the table side.
|Half-Time: ALTRINCHAM 1
SUTTON COLDFIELD TOWN 1
Altrincham kicked off towards Golf Road and again started indifferently. Things improved as a low Hancock cross was gathered by keeper Brown, who then punched a Moult cross which could have been caught (51 mins). After Harrop and Smith had got in a tangle, the Royals' man needed treatment and then had to leave the field looking to be dazed as he staggered off with assistance. He was replaced by Webb (53 mins).
Play resumed with a bounce up after which Sutton Coldfield won a corner. On 56 minutes, a superb 35-yard chip by Poole was only just tipped over the bar by the retreating keeper for a corner. At this point, Altrincham introduced Johnston for Peers on the pitch's muddier right wing (56 mins). Jones headed Poole's corner over the bar.
Next, a deep Johnston cross found Hampson who miscued a shot before Johnston himself did the same (59 mins).
The visitors made another change as their new loanee from Tamworth, Walters, replaced Flint with raining briefly falling steadily (62 mins).
After a promising couple of minutes from the Royals, a Johnston run on the right was halted. After this, the visitors' other loanee from Tamworth, Upton, sliced a Johnston cross over the bar for a corner. From Poole's corner, another followed but Sutton Coldfield were far from being out of the game (67 mins).
When Johnston was fouled near the right corner, Poole overhit the freekick as Alty continued to struggle to work the goalkeeper. Soon, a Hancock shot gained a corner from Hampson's feed. After this, Hawley tripped Harrop on the front edge of the box's "D" (71 mins). Harrop's freekick hit the wall then Hampson won another corner on the left. Alty continued to favour the right wing over the better surface on the left but then, when Hampson was fed on the left, Johnston headed his cross over the bar from the back post (76 mins).
As time ticked away for Alty, Hancock just got to a loose ball fractionally ahead of a defender, just inside the box. The defender tripped Hancock and, after a long pause, Mr. Gittins pointed to the spot. Johnston coolly netted the penalty to make it 2-1 (80 mins).
At the other end, after Jones had slipped, it took a great tackle by White to halt the visitors at the cost of a corner (82 mins). Play switched to the other end where a Johnston dribble into the box led to the visitors' keeper and a defender colliding and giving Alty a corner. From this, Jones's header was tipped onto the crossbar and away.
Now each side made a change as Mason Walsh came on for Poole and Dell replaced Beresford (84 mins). Sutton had not given in and two fouls by Harrop and then Harrison allowed them to threaten. When Harrop then fouled Dell just inside the Alty half, the visitors' substitute over-reacted and appeared to throw a punch at the Altrincham man. Again Mr. Gittins commendably took his time before dishing out a red card to the Royals' man and a yellow to Harrop. Dell had been barely four minutes on the pitch before his rush of blood (89 mins).
Six added minutes were proclaimed and they started with Alty on the back foot and conceding another freekick, this time 25 yards out. Richards's freekick went comfortably to Thompson.
For Alty, Walsh's low cross from the left yielded a throw in the corner but in the fifth added minute Thompson was shown a yellow card for timewasting, his second such offence this season. Hulme won a late corner before the final whistle signalled a narrow but important victory for Altrincham against a side which looked eminently capable of climbing away from the relegation spot that they currently occupy.
This was not one of Altrincham's more fluid performances and on a soft pitch and after an eleven-day lay-off that was perhaps not altogether surprising. But they showed character to secure the three points which maintain the gap between them and the chasing pack.
|Full-Time: ALTRINCHAM 2
SUTTON COLDFIELD TOWN 1