What had promised to be a routine win when Alty had taken a 2-0 lead inside half an hour, ended with the Robins defending in depth for much of the latter stages, which included some six added minutes, after Mickleover had scored in the 85th minute.
Earlier, Johnston got in a low cross which keeper King fumbled to allow Peers to give an 18th minute lead. The second goal arrived eleven minutes later when Densmore's shot span forward off a defender to Hulme. From an acute angle, right of goal, Hulme got the ball into the net off the back post.
The second half was a disappointing and, at times, physical affair in which Alty were increasingly on the back foot. In the 85th minute Alty failed to clear a long throw and Garnett arrived at the back post to head home. The match became tetchy towards the end with Thompson's blatant timewasting earning him a deserved yellow card.
But Alty held on with a battling performance to secure all three points.
REFEREE: Mr Wayne Barratt
After making nine changes in midweek for their Integro Cup tie at Mossley, Altrincham reverted back to their strongest available squad.
However, Simon Richman was unavailable as he served his three-match suspension and also unavailable were Josh Amis and Sean Miller (on loan at Colne) as well as Laurence Taylor (on loan at Hednesford Town). John Disney remained injured and James Poole, James Jones and Lewis Short had all missed recent matches, through injury, but Jones was back on the bench today. Harrop started and Sheridan was on the bench.
MICKLEOVER SPORTS (Red shirts, shorts and black socks) 1. Lewis King, 2. Reece Horne, 3. Ben Turner, 4. John McGrath, 5. Pablo Mills, 6. Tom Burgin (c), 7. Andy Dales, 8. Alex Morris, 9. Jimmy Phillips, 10. Evan Garnett, 11. Ollie Mulders. Subs: 12. Bradley Grayson. 14. Kevin Graycott, 15. Clinton Morrison, 16. Lewis Belgrave, 17. Matthew Timms.
ALTRINCHAM (All purple) 1. Tony THOMPSON, 2. Shaun DENSMORE, 3. Connor HAMPSON, 4. Tom HANNIGAN, 5. Ben HARRISON, 6. Jake MOULT (c), 7. John JOHNSTON, 8. Max HARROP, 9. Jordan HULME, 10. Tom PEERS, 11. Josh HANCOCK. Subs 12. James JONES, 14. Joel BEMBO-LETA, 15. Mason WALSH, 16. Sam SHERIDAN, 20. Tim DEASY.
This was the first ever clash betweeen the clubs.
After Sports had kicked off, and several throws had been traded, Johnston got to the left byline but Sports managed to hack the ball clear (3 mins). Alty continued to set the pace as Peers had to be halted on the right before a Harrop effort from 30 yards went well wide (6 mins).
Johnston was looking the most likely player to rescue the game from its early uneventfulness. On the touchline, Sports coach, the former Irish international Clinton Morrison amused the visiting fans by shouting out to his players and gesturing in the vague direction of Ben Harrison, "Let that big one have the ball he'll give it back to us" (17 mins). Quite where he had gained that piece of footballing information was difficult to fathom.
Soon after player-manager McGrath's handball near halfway, Johnston threatened again on the left and his low cross-shot was fumbled by keeper King and this allowed Peers to net from close range (18 mins).
The resumption was delayed for treatment to Mickleover's Mulders, who was then subbed by Grayson (20 mins).
Alty then had a scare as Harrison had to clear off the line after Thompson's mis-punch, following a Mills cross from the right (21 mins). And then a 35 yarder from Garnett hit the Alty post with Thompson motionless (22 mins).
The game was quite a physical contest as McGrath brought down Harrop and then, three minutes later, Harrop did the same to Dales and was booked (27 mins).
Shortly after Thompson had come out smartly to block Grayson, Densmore got forward on the right and his shot deflected, forward, off a home defender, to Hulme. Hulme did very well to score from a very acute angle, right of goal, the ball trickling into the net off the far post to make it 0-2 (29 mins).
When Johnston was handed off the ball and, then, Hampson went down, referee Barratt saw no reason to halt play to the annoyance of the Alty bench (33 mins).
Hannigan was having a steady game alongside Harrison as Alty kept Mickleover from any clear sight of goal at this stage.
When Harrop was fouled on the edge of the home box, Dales escaped with a lecture. Harrop put the freekick inches wide, to the left of the defensive wall (37 mins). At the other end a Sports' low cross flew across Alty's box for a goalkick.
Play was now end to end as an Alty attack was only halted on the byline before a Sports attack was halted by Densmore, who was having a fine match (40 mins). Three minutes before the start of added time, Densmore was flattened and this time Dales was booked.
In the first of two added minutes, Hulme kept the ball well but his 25 yard shot went narrowly wide.
|Half-Time: MICKLEOVER SPORTS 0
Three minutes into the second half, Hulme won a corner on the right, followed by another, gained by a deflected Hancock shot. From this, Moult's downward header was only just reached by keeper King as it reared up towards the top of the net.
At the other end, a wild shot by Phillips flew high and wide (51 mins). A clear elbow on Hulme escaped the referee's attention before Burgin headed well over the bar from Horne's cross. There was then a bizarre scene as Clinton Morrison came five yards onto the pitch, talking to his players, with the match officials seemingly oblivious to an offence which had recently seen Jose Mourinho sent off!
Play continued in robust fashion with Moult penalised, then Garnett left Hannigan in a heap (58 mins). Altrincham were increasingly on the back foot but when a counter-attack saw Hulme play in Peers, Alty's number ten mishit his shot for a goalkick (67 mins).
The battling Hulme next won a corner from which his own overhead kick towards goal prompted fruitless appeals for hands (69 mins). After the Sports had been offside, they introduced Belgrave for Horne (70 mins).
Hampson then need lengthy treatment to his ankle before resuming. Alty then briefly got forward but they spurned another chance to wrap up the game when Hancock fed Peers who shot wide from 12 yards (77 mins).
Mickleover then threatened but Jones did well to concede a corner after Thompson had been beaten as he advanced to close down an incursion into his penalty area. Johnston responded by getting in a cross from the byline but no one was in the goalmouth to convert it (82 mins). Next, after a good Densmore run, Hulme's effort was blocked by the keeper but went for a corner.
In the latter stages of the game Mickleover began to use long throws and the ploy paid off as one from the Sports' left was only nodded across the visitors' box by an Alty man and at the back post, Garnett headed in from close range to make it 1-2 (85 mins). In the aftermath, Moult was booked for dissent.
Sports now brought on Grocott for Phillips (87 mins) and almost immediately, Thompson had to bat away a good effort but Mickleover's follow up was blasted high and wide as Alty were kept on the back foot (88 mins). Johnston went down after Grocott caught him in the face, but play continued. Johnston was then treated which prompted Clinton Morrison to yell at the Alty bench which had been complaining about the Johnston incident.
In the final minute of normal time, Bembo-Leta replaced Johnston. Next a Pablo Mills freekick from 25 yards just cleared the bar after which Thompson was booked for timewasting. The Altrincham keeper could have no complaints at all at the yellow card as he had been "winding down the clock" repeatedly. But after redeeming himself moments later as he saved a long shot he was very slow to pick himself off the ground, seriously risking what would have been a quite justifiable second yellow card (90+2 mins).
Alty's shaky conclusion to the game continued as an error allowed Sports a shot but it was hit weakly to Thompson. Next a 35 shot flew narrowly wide with Thompson having slipped as he attempted to cover it. In the fifth added minute Hancock and Hulme were involved in a spat with King and another Mickleover man as a consequence of which Hancock was booked (90+6 mins). But Altrincham hung on to all three points after allowing the hosts to get back into the game.
|Full-Time: MICKLEOVER SPORTS 1