No home comforts for Robins as Magpies fightback jolts play-off hopes

Words John Edwards Pictures Jonathan Moore

Altrincham 1 Maidenhead United 3

Altrincham's hopes of relaunching their bid for promotion suffered a telling blow as Maidenhead stunned them with two goals in as many minutes either side of half-time at The J.Davidson Stadium.

The Robins looked primed to bounce back from two successive defeats on the road when right-back Lewis Baines fired them in front in the 12th minute.

It seemed the ideal platform for a much-needed win and a morale boost in their quest for a place in the end-of-season play-offs.

But a 30th-minute equaliser planted a seed of doubt in Alty minds that well and truly took root when it was followed by a second goal for the Magpies in the 45th minute and a third in the 47th.

The pitch did Alty few favours, for all the sterling efforts of a hard-working groundstaff, but it was still a concern that the Robins could not build on such a positive first 20 minutes or so as they crashed to a third straight defeat for the first time this season.

So, an afternoon that began with high hopes of reclaiming a place in the play-off zone ended in bitter disappointment as this defeat, coupled with a win for FC Halifax Town at Dagenham & Redbridge, meant Alty have now slipped to ninth in the table.

An Alty side showing three changes from the defeat at Hartlepool made a bright start and threatened inside the opening minute when Regan Linney harried Kevin Lokko into losing possession on the right bye-line and delivered a low cross that was hacked behind for a corner.

The flag-kick by Eddy Jones came to nothing, but it was an encouraging show of intent and determination by Linney to force the mistake by the Maidenhead defender.

An uneventful 10 minutes later, it was Linney again proving a thorn in Maidenhead's side as he controlled a throw-in and switched the ball to his left foot before curling an effort narrowly wide of the far angle of post and bar.

That was much moire like it from Alty after a quiet spell, and it proved the precursor to an outstanding opening goal in the 12th minute.

A sweeping move from right to left ended with George Wilson firing in a low shot that deflected into the path of Banks, who kept his cool to dispatch a low left-foot finish into the Maidenhead net to the delight of a packed Venditan Golf Road End behind the goal.

It was almost 2-0 in the 16th minute when the lively Linney drilled home a low angled drive, only for the linesman to indicate he had strayed fractionally offside.

A dangerous left-wing cross by Reece Smith in the 22nd minute was a reminder to Alty that a one-goal lead may well not be enough, but it went unheeded as Maidenhead hauled themselves level on the half-hour following a foul by Sam Roscoe that earned the Robins defender a yellow card.

The resulting free-kick was swung into the area from the right, and when Alty failed to clear their lines, the ball fell to Lokko, who made no mistake from close range.

Three minutes later, Dan Mooney's turn of pace enabled him to latch on to a Banks through ball, but the angle was against him as keeper Craig Ross blocked his shot from the right corner of the six-yard box.

There was another presentable opportunity for Alty in the 39th minute as Mooney cut in from the right and curled a left-foot shot that Ross parried unconvincingly towards the lurking Alex Newby. The keeper was almost punished for making such hard work of what should have been a routine save, but Newby's goal-bound shot was blocked by a defender.

A flash of Chris Conn-Clarke magic almost conjured up a second Alty goal in the 43rd minute. The little Alty forward brilliantly weaved his way past two challenges in the tightest of areas before being crowded out as he tried to find room for a shot.

Alty were pushing for a second goal, but when it came, it went the way of the visitors. A clever dummy gave Smith the chance to fasten on to a through ball, and he finished in style with a crisp low drive into the bottom corner.

If the first half ended in disastrous fashion, it didn't get any better for the Robins at the start of the second half.

A right-wing corner was hoisted into the heart of the Alty area, and Remy Clerima rose highest to steer a header beyond the reach of Matt Gould to give the visitors a two-goal cushion.

What a stunning setback for Alty, just as they were hoping to find a way back on to level terms. It needed a response, and one was almost forthcoming in the 56th minute when a superb Elliot Osborne pass carved open the Maidenhead defence and gave Mooney the chance to roll ball across the face of the area, where it just eluded the straining boot of Conn-Clarke.

It was the nearest they came to reducing the arrears in a disjointed second-half, as Maidenhead held out and left Alty needing a win more than ever when they hit the road again and head for Southend on Tuesday night.

Altrincham - Gould, Banks, E.Jones, Osborne, Linney, Conn-Clarke, Cooper, Roscoe (Baines 46), Wilson, Newby (Kosylo 70), Mooney (Angus 85). Subs not used - Byrne, Marriott.

Maidenhead - Ross, Beckwith, De Havilland, Lokko, Ferdinand, Mitchell-Lawson, Pettit, Smith (Barratt 86), Clerima, Abrahams (Zimba 88), Adams. Subs not used - Asare, Omilabu, Massey.

HT - 1-2

Goals - Banks 12; Lokko 30, Smith 45, Clerima 47.

Yellow cards - Roscoe, Jones, Linney; Ross.

Red cards - None.

Referee - James Westgate.

Assistants - Simon Robinson, Mark Ryder.

Fourth official - Declan Brown.

Attendance - 2,216 (45 away).

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