Altrincham 2 Harriers 2
Venue: Moss Lane
away fans: 236
Late penalty denies Harriers the points
Another controversial penalty given late into stoppage time broke the hearts of the Harriers fans and players alike after the referee signalled a foul for a shove in the box by Michael Carr on Rod Thornley. It's doubtful if could have been classed as a shove after the Altrincham man went to ground far too easily.
That penalty bought the game back level to two goals apiece and robbed the Reds of a well earned three points after many other results went our way today. Histon and Torquay both lost but Stevenage won at home to Ebbsfleet to keep the pressure up on the Harriers. The point earned today does take us up into fourth place above Histon but they do have a game in hand over us. That game is due to be played at home to Ebbsfleet on Thursday.
We started the game with a much changed line-up. Mark Creighton, Darryl Knights and Matt Barnes-Homer dropped to the bench while Craig Armstrong (in for the suspended Lee Baker), Andy Ferrell, Brian Smikle, Martin Brittain, Martin Riley (back after suspension) and Russ Penn came back into the side. Squad rotation in action.
It took until the fifth minute of the game to see the first threat on goal from either side. That came from the Harriers when Stefan Moore got his head to the ball from a corner and sent it towards the goal. Luckily for Alty Matt Doughty cleared it off the line. Following a few more half chances for the Reds we were handed a free kick on the edge of the area but Martin Brittain's kick went just the wrong side of the post.
Soon after came the first booking from a card happy referee when he jotted down Ben Wilkinson's name in his book for a foul on Russ Penn. Keith Lowe took the free kick and is wasn't too far off going in.
The Harriers were well in charge of the game and it seemed only a matter of time before we racked up the first goal of the game. That could have gone to Chris McPhee after he saw his sharp volley fly just over the bar.
Alty had their chances to score too and Robbie Lawton should really have done better when a mistake from Luke Jones allowed him a free run on goal but his chipped shot over Adam Bartlett was too strong and went out over the bar.
Just six minutes before the break another error from Jones handed Altrincham the lead. Shaun Densmore sent a floating cross over and Luke failed to react quickly enough and allowed Michael Welch to get blind side of him and head the ball into the net for their opening goal.
Not wanting to let the goal get them down too much we went back on the attack straight away. Brian Smikle moved quickly down the wing and crossed the ball to the lurking Russ Penn but his side footed shot was far too weak to trouble Stuart Coburn in goal for the home side.
A minute later another chance for us to score went begging when Luke Jones headed wide of an open goal after a fine corner was delivered in by Brittain. The whistle for half time went soon after.
HT: 1 - 0
The Harriers came out for the second period just as much up for it as they were in the first half of the game. Brian Smikle saw his chance to score almost from the re-start but his shot from twelve yards out went wide of the mark. Two minutes later and we were back level.
The Alty keeper handled the ball outside the area and as well as giving away a free kick he also found his name in the ref's book. Martin Brittain took the free kick and curled it around Coburn and into the net for another one of his famous free kicks.
We had now got the bit between our teeth and went all out looking for a second goal. Stefan Moore shot wide and then Chris McPhee collected a pass from Russ Penn, spun around and sent in a shot that hit Greg Young even though he hadn't seen it coming.
The home side made a couple of changes to their side with Ben Wilkinson and Mark McGregor coming off in exchange for Rod Thornley and Dale Johnson.
The change seemed to give then renewed belief in themselves and that was shown to good effect when Colin Little spotted Adam Bartlett slightly off his line and attempted to lob the Harriers keeper. A quick reaction from Barts saw him leap backwards to palm it over the bar to much relief from the 236 Harriers fans in attendance.
A minute late the hero of the minute found his name going into the book after he clashed with Doughty following a save at the defenders feet. Doughty appeared to have left his foot in and Barts took offence to that and made his feelings known by pushing him away.
The Harriers manager, Mark Yates, thought it was about time for a change and sent on Matt Barnes-Homer for the disappointing Stefan Moore.
Soon after that change another, enforced, one was made when Martin Riley and Keith Lowe clashed heads while going for a ball. Martins head was badly cut just in front of the ear and with blood pouring out of the wound he had to leave the field for in depth treatment. Mark Creighton, starting from the bench for the first time in his Aggborough career, came on in a like for like swap.
We were back under the cosh again and almost went behind once more but luckily for us Thornley's close range finish was ruled out for offside.
In fact it was us the took the lead straight away after. Russ Penn collected the ball in the middle of the park and passed it out wide to Brittain. Brit went forward looking for the cross and found the opportunity when he spotted MBH storming in. Matt's head connected perfectly with the cross and sent it beyond the reach of Coburn to put us in the driving seat for the first time in the game.
Strangely, following Brittain's perfect cross, Yates took him off and sent on Michael Carr in his place.
MBH tried to grab a second goal for himself two minutes later but his effort from distance went well over the bar and behind.
With time now running down to the final whistle and the Harriers looking good for the points Colin Little had other ideas. First he forced Bartlett into another brilliant save when his shot from twenty yards out was flipped over by the keeper and then in extra time disaster struck.
Michael Carr was deemed to have fouled Thornley in the box and the referee pointed to the spot even though he had just missed another foul on Andy Ferrell a split second earlier. Little stepped up to the mark and sent Barts the wrong way and us home with just the one point.
The Harriers still remain un-beaten in twelve games now but three draws in one week is not good for the heart and not good to confirm our place in the play-offs. That battle continues in front of the Setanta cameras at Aggborough when they come to see us take on Burton Albion and spoil their promotion party.