Agony for Alty, but what an effort - you've done the club proud, boys!

Words John Edwards Pictures Jonathan Moore

Bromley 3 Altrincham 1

The promotion dream is over, but Altrincham bowed out of the play-offs with their heads held high after a pulsating semi-final at Hayes Lane this afternoon.

It was alive and kicking when Alty went in front with a smart finish from Regan Linney and ended the first half with their lead still intact.

But three goals in nine minutes early in the second half proved the Robins' undoing as, despite the exhortations of a 700-strong away support, they couldn't force their way back into the tie.

So, a trip to Wembley for the Vanarama National League promotion final eluded them, but Alty can look back over the campaign as a whole with immense pride and a growing conviction that they will be back and may even go one better, at least, next season.

Alty looked confident and composed in the early stages, keeping possession and using it well, but it was Bromley who had the first shot on target, Corey Whitely connecting well enough from the edge of the area but firing his shot straight at Ethan Ross.

When Alty fashioned their first on-target goal attempt in the 14th minute, Bromley keeper Grant Smith was hard pressed to prevent it breaking the deadlock.

Linney had plenty to do as he controlled Lewis Banks' low ball into the middle with his back to goal, but he made the most of an unpromising situation with a brilliant spin and low shot that Smith touched round the post at full stretch.

Bright and purposeful, the Robins threatened again three minutes later when a Banks pass to Justin Amaluzor was swiftly transferred on to Chris Conn-Clarke on the right, only for his angled shot to be safely held by Smith.

After half-an-hour of both sides testing each other out and probing patiently for a way through, the cutting edge that has been so evident in so many Alty performances this season made another welcome appearance.

Sent scampering clear down the left flank, Alex Newby pulled the ball back to Conn-Clarke, who was surrounded by defenders and had his back to goal 15 yards out. The Alty attacker twisted one way then another to create space for a low left-foot shot that might not have proved unduly troublesome to Bromley's defence but for the ever-alert Linney reacting instinctively to stretch out a boot and divert it past Smith to give his side a deserved 31st-minute lead.

It was almost doubled three minutes later when Linney engineered an opening on the right of the area and hammered a shot into the side netting.

Alty were good value for their slender advantage, but it needed two moments of defensive excellence from two consistently outstanding giants of the back four to ensure the Robins finished the half in front.

First, Lewis Baines flung himself in the way of a close-range effort from Michael Cheek, and then Ross added another entry to his catalogue of top-drawer saves by tipping over a piledriver by substitute Louis Dennis.

Danger man Cheek miskicked with the goal at his mercy just 30 seconds into the second half, in a clear warning to Alty, if one were needed, that there was still work to be done to secure a place in next weekend's final.

A Bromley response to their half-time deficit was only to be expected, given their standing as, in the words of Phil Parkinson, perennial play-off contenders.

Respond they duly did, and they were on level terms in the 51st minute when Myles Weston planted a header into the top corner from a left-wing flag-kick.

It was hard on Baines, who had rescued the Robins with a typically well-executed block at the expense of the corner that proved so beneficial to Bromley.

Worse followed in the 56th minute when the Robins were made to pay for some uncharacteristically below-par defending, when a long throw from the left was allowed to bounce across the edge of the six-yard box to the far post, where Jude Arthurs steamed in to head past Ross.

If those two Bromley goals could and perhaps should have been avoided, a stunning third for the home side was unstoppable.

When the ball was rolled back into the path of Weston on the right of the area, the Bromley forward met it with a first-time left-footed effort that had curl and pace as it flew into the top corner, giving Ross no chance whatsoever.

The Alty keeper was equal to the task in the 70th minute, however, to prevent any further damage to the scoreline. A Bromley breakaway ended with Cheek being played through for a one-on-one with Ross, but the Alty number one stood his ground to beat away the shot.

The travelling 700 Alty fans kept urging their side on to keep the tie alive, and the players themselves showed they had not lost hope as a spell of pressure led to Conn-Clarke dragging a shot narrowly wide of the far post in the 71st minute.

Indeed, it was only the frame of the goal that stopped Alty reducing the arrears and breathing new life into their Wembley aspirations in the 75th minute.

When a free-kick was awarded for handball a mere couple of steps away from the spot where Newby scored the most dramatic of late equalisers at Hayes Lane in the league, there could be only one player to take responsibility.

Up strode Newby, and it was so nearly a repeat performance from the winger with another superb set-piece delivery that this time clipped the bar and went over.

Unbelievably, the crossbar came to Bromley's rescue again in the 86th minute after Smith picked up a back pass and conceded an indirect free-kick inside the area.

With every Bromley player crammed inside their own six-yard box, the ball was touched to Conn-Clarke, whose shot cannoned against the top of the bar on its way over.

Credit to the Robins, and their travelling fans, they had given it their all, but it just was not to be. 

Bromley Smith; Reynolds, Charles, Cheek, Grant, Webster (c), Whitely (Olomola, 82'), Arthurs, Krauhaus (Dennis, 24'), Odutayo, Weston (Kirk, 66'). Subs not used: Thomas, Davies.

Altrincham Ross; Banks, E.Jones, Baines (c), Osborne, Linney, Conn-Clarke, Amaluzor (Mooney, 78'), Cooper, Hancox (Kosylo, 69'), Newby. Subs not used: Angus, Roscoe, Gould.

HT 0-1

Goals Weston 51', Arthurs 56', Weston 60' | Linney (Conn-Clarke) 31'

Yellows Cheek 49', Grant 90' | Banks 49'

Reds None | None

Referee Ruebyn Ricardo

Assistants Adam Nichol & Scott Chalkley

Fourth official Paul Johnson

Attendance 5,000 (700 away)

 

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