Saturday 9th January 2021 | 15:00
Gander Green Lane
Address: Gander Green Lane, Sutton , SM1 2EY
A 30-yard thunderbolt from Altrincham defender Connor Hampson with the last meaningful kick of the game earned his side a draw that over the balance of the game it was hard to deny they deserved. Playing their first game for three weeks, Sutton had recovered well from conceding a goal against the run of play and merited the half time lead that David Ajiboye and Isaac Olaofe had given them, but the second half saw Altrincham in control for long spells as the inactivity, both playing and training, perhaps caught up with U’s. Some solid defending and several saves from Dean Bouzanis left them on the brink of holding on for victory, but then the good work was undone by a repeated failure to keep possession in the last thirty seconds, and punished by Hampson’s spectacular strike.
U’s started with plenty of energy and in only the fourth minute Olaofe, who it was confirmed after the game will stay with Sutton until the end of the season, saw a shot turned aside by Tony Thompson in the Altrincham goal. When the opening goal came, though, it was at the other end as Matty Kosylo’s corner found its way back to him on the left, and his cross eventually reached Toby Mullarkey, whose header went in off the post. There were protests from U’s that Omar Bugiel had been fouled as the ball came across, but after consulting with his assistant referee Robert Massey-Ellis confirmed the goal.
Craig Eastmond’s opinion of the decision was revealed by a challenge on Yusify Ceesay soon afterwards which earned him the first of the afternoon’s five bookings, but otherwise U’s response was excellent, and they were level when Ajiboye came in behind the defence to meet Will Randall’s deep cross and loop a header over Thompson and inside the far post. Now in the ascendancy, it took a fine intervention from Mullarkey to prevent a low Randall cross reaching Bugiel, but from the resulting corner, taken by Randall, the ball dropped for Olaofe to volley in on the turn (above) as it was this time Altrincham’s turn to appeal for a foul, Thompson booked for his protests.
U’s might have reached half time further ahead as Randall saw a curling 20-yard effort go narrowly wide, but the tone of the second half was set as Altrincham, with Kosylo a consistent threat, forced five corners in the first five minutes and Bouzanis made saves from Ceesay and Joel Senior. As the visitors continued to press, with former Sutton striker Byron Harrison brought on for his debut for the last half hour, Ben Goodliffe produced a characteristic block as he threw himself in the way of a powerful goalbound volley from Alastair Smith, and Bouzanis was called in to action again to deny Josh Hancock and Moult, while Kosylo’s overhead kick landed gently in the keeper’s arms.
U’s struggled to impose themselves as an attacking force in the second half, Ajiboye pulling one shot wide of the near post and Rhys Browne, making his debut for the last nine minutes, failed to trouble Thompson with a shot from the edge of the area. However they seemed to have done enough until a last thirty seconds that they won’t want to see again in a hurry. It began with Tobi Sho-Silva launching a counter attack following a corner but overhitting a pass to Olaofe that gave Thompson the chance to return the ball in to the Sutton half. Browne, Eastmond and Kenny Davis all missed chances to clear the danger, Harry Beautyman’s attempted interception sent the ball out to Hampson thirty yards out, and Bouzanis was left a spectator by a cleanly struck shot that flew in to the top corner, with the final whistle blown the moment U’s kicked off.
Altrincham: T Thompson, J Senior, C Hampson, R Sutton. J Moult, T Mullarkey, M Kosylo, A Smith, Y Ceesay(sub B Harrison 60), J Hancock(sub D Mooney 67), R Colclough. Subs n/u A White, T Hannigan, S Richman. Booked: Hampson, Thompson.