Report by John Edwards
Picture by Jonathan Moore
AFC Fylde 3 Altrincham 3
Late drama is fast becoming part of the matchday package for Altrincham fans, and nerves were once more stretched to breaking point in a Bank Holiday blockbuster at Mill Farm.
Alty are now unbeaten in their opening six Vanarama National League fixtures, but that doesn't even begin to tell the tale of an extraordinary afternoon on the Fylde coast, one in which the Robins twice had the lead, conceded two penalties in the space of five seconds and finally had two points wrenched from their grasp after very nearly 10 minutes of added time.
It's been said before that there's never a dull moment following Altrincham, and seldom has that been more applicable than now, as the first month of an already-eventful 2023-24 campaign draws to a close.
Fresh from the euphoria of Dior Angus' stoppage-time winner against Chesterfield on Saturday, Alty fans packed into the away end had to endure the agony of seeing a hard-earned win turned into a draw with virtually the last kick for the second time this season. The 98th minute against Dagenham & Redbridge on day one, the 99th here at Fylde's state-of-the-art stadium.
What might have been will doubtless have preyed on minds on the journey back along the M55 and down the M6, but what actually is doesn't make for bad reading - 10 points in the bag from six unbeaten games and just four points behind the league leaders in sixth position.
Manager Phil Parkinson made five changes from Saturday's starting line-up, and though it was Fylde who looked sharper out of the traps, Alty contained them impressively, with one brilliant block from skipper James Jones standing out in what was a disciplined first-half defensive display.
Indeed, after half-an-hour of keeping a lively home side at arm's length, the accent from an Alty perspective switched suddenly and spectacularly to the other end of the pitch.
Regan Linney had already threatened in the 22nd minute, surging clear and beating keeper Theo Richardson in a one-on-one, only to be pulled back for apparently using his arm to propel the ball forward as he sprinted beyond a close marker.
There was no stopping him in the 33rd minute, as the Robins drew first blood with a lightning break that caught Fylde unawares.
Angus advanced to the edge of the area on the right, and when Richardson spilled his low angled drive, Linney's predatory instincts came to the fore as he pounced on the loose ball and fired it into the net (pictured on main news page).
The lead was doubled two minutes later with a goal that was expertly created and clinically converted.
When Linney played a pass infield to Elliot Osborne, it was met with an exquisite first touch by the Alty midfielder, whose instant contact with the outside of his right boot sent the ball spinning into space for Linney to run on to down the left flank, the resulting low cross being controlled and then despatched past the keeper by the in-form Angus.
There was a sense that Fylde had too much about them as an attacking unit for the contest to be considered over, and so it proved as they threw everything at the Robins in the second half.
Even so, there was more than a touch of the bizarre about the goal that got them back in it in the 56th minute.
Danger man Nick Haughton was hauled down in the area as he made inroads towards the left edge of the six-yard box, and when the referee awarded the inevitable penalty, Fylde's skipper picked himself up and put the ball on the spot.
There was nothing wrong with the kick, struck low and hard to the left, but Ethan Ross was equal to it, diving full length to his right to palm it away. Hardly had the cheers from Alty fans travelled the length of the pitch from the other end, though, than Danny Whitehead was impeded as he challenged for the loose ball, and another penalty ensued.
Ross went the same way but the ball, sadly, didn't as Haughton coolly rolled it to his right this time to reduce the arrears and give his side even more impetus.
Haughton forced a save out of Ross from a 73rd-minute free-kick, and Fylde were level five minutes later when the massive frame of Gold Omotayo rose highest to head home and make it 2-2.
Alty boss Parkinson's reaction was interesting, to say the least. The momentum was with Fylde, so there might have been a temptation to try and contain them with defensive reinforcements, but not a bit of it.
On came Chris Conn-Clarke for Joey Jones and Justin Amaluzor for Angus, and it was a bold statement of attacking intent that soon paid dividends.
When Amaluzor forced his way past one defender then another on the left of the area in the 87th minute, he was bundled to the floor for a penalty that Conn-Clarke calmly slotted past Richardson, to the delight of the travelling fans behind the goal.
Alty's hopes of hanging on for a six-point Bank Holiday haul were hit by two images that appeared almost simultaneously in the final minute of the 90.
One was George Wilson being treated on the far side of the pitch from the main stand and in obvious discomfort and the other was the fourth official raising a board indicating there would be a minimum of eight added minutes.
In the event, there were 10, and with Wilson unable to continue after gamely trying to, the 10 men were just seconds away from mission accomplished when giant striker Omotayo again caused havoc in the air and Emeka Obi got the final touch to send the home crowd wild.
Bromley next up for Alty at The J.Davidson Stadium next Saturday, and one thing is for sure - it's unlikely to be dull.
Altrincham - Ross, James Jones, Cooper, Baines, Banks, Joey Jones (Conn-Clarke 81), Osborne, Wilson, E.Jones, Angus (Amaluzor 84), Linney (Marriott 59). Subs not used - Roscoe, Burroughs.
Attendance - 1,819.