Second-half turnaround leaves Alty stunned

Words John Edwards Pictures Jonathan Moore

Hartlepool United 3 Altrincham 2

Contrasts don't come much starker than the difference between the first half and the 45 minutes that followed as Altrincham's promotion bid was hit by a second defeat in three days at the Suit Direct Stadium.

Serenely in control and scarcely allowing Hartlepool a kick, a much-changed Alty side led through a Matty Kosylo goal at the end of a first half that looked the ultimate example of how to make full use of a talented squad in the face of two long journeys in quick succession.

Alty were that good for 45 minutes, taking the reshuffle of resources in their stride and keeping possession with an ease that had Hartlepool chasing shadows. What a turnaround in the second half, as the home side blitzed the Robins with two goals in the space of three minutes and added a third before Dior Angus reduced the deficit in stoppage time.

It will have seemed a long journey home for travel-weary Alty, so soon after the trek to Aldershot and back on Saturday, and they will doubtless be relieved to be stepping out at The J.Davidson for their next encounter against Maidenhead United on Saturday.

Manager Phil Parkinson made no fewer than five changes to Saturday's starting starting line-up, and those who came in showed a commendable eagerness to make the most of their opportunity, not least Kosylo and Dan Mooney, who both saw plenty of the ball in the early stages.

Mooney repeatedly cut in from the right in a bid to put Alty on the front foot, while Kosylo had a shot blocked on the edge of the area prior to Eddy Jones fizzing a dangerous low centre across the edge of the six-yard box that caused alarm in the Hartlepool defence.

All that was in the opening five minutes, and seconds later, the Robins almost forced a breakthrough, as George Wilson mishit a volley into a crowded penalty area, and Angus challenged to win the aerial duel as it bounced towards the home goal.

It wasn't clear who got the all-important touch, but the outcome was a narrow escape for Hartlepool, as the ball clipped the top of the crossbar and went behind for a corner.

It was a highly-encouraging start for the Robins against a Hartlepool side who have been in fine form under recently-appointed manager Kevin Phillips.

Alty were controlling possession without unduly threatening the Hartlepool goal, though that almost changed in the 30th minute when Kosylo threaded a ball through that so nearly put Angus in the clear for a one-on-one with the keeper.

If a goal was coming, it would surely go the way of an Alty team who were looking by far the more impressive outfit.

So it proved in the 33rd minute as Angus pressurised defender Luke Waterfall into a hasty clearance that was intercepted by Kosylo 20 yards out. The little Alty forward wasted no time despatching it goalwards, and though the diving Joel Dixon got a hand to it, he could not prevent it flying into the roof of the net off his outstretched right wrist.

It was a deserved lead that should have been doubled in the 41st minute when Angus brilliantly shrugged off a close marker with a sublime turn inside the area, only for a mishit shot to present Dixon with a straightforward save.

Hartlepool made a substitution at half-time and changed their shape, and it almost paid immediate dividends in the 46th minute when Dieseruvwe looked sure to score until being denied by a superb last-ditch block tackle by Eddy Jones.

Back came Alty a minute later as Mooney surged clear and skipped inside a challenge before hitting a rising drive that Dixon held on to at the second attempt, with George Wilson ready to pounce.

After being in such command in the first half, the last thing Alty needed was to let a subdued home side back in it, but that's precisely what unfolded as two goals in three calamitous minutes turned the game on its head.

First, a cut-back from the bye-line on the left, following a mix-up in the Alty defence, gave Dieseruvwe the chance to sidefoot a close-range finish beyond Matt Gould to make it 1-1.

Worse followed in the 52nd minute when Gould dived at the feet of the advancing Joe Grey and, despite claims he made contact with the ball, a penalty was awarded that Dieseruvwe converted with aplomb.

Alty responded with a double change, Lewis Baines and Regan Linney replacing Mooney and Kosylo, but, with the home crowd suddenly stirred into life, they had an uphill task on their hands.

They at least looked to be making inroads until a third Hartlepool goal in the 69th minute rocked them back on their heels.

Grey made room for a low cross from the right, and when Alty's defence failed to deal with it, David Ferguson swept home a right-foot shot from near the penalty spot.

There was a glimmer of hope for the Robins in the first of five added minutes, when substitute Chris Conn-Clarke provided a low left-wing cross that Angus drilled first time through the legs of Dixon, but time was against them and a late, late equaliser proved elusive.

Hartlepool Dixon, Hendrie (Onariase 18), Waterfall, Parkes, Ferguson, Featherstone, Crawford (Wallace 89), Dickenson (Stephenson 46), Cooke, Grey, Dieseruvwe. Subs now used Jameson, Cooper.

Altrincham Gould, Banks, E.Jones, Osborne, Kosylo (Linney 55), Marriott, Angus, Cooper, Roscoe, Wilson (Conn-Clarke 60), Mooney (Baines 55). Subs not used Amaluzor, Newby.

HT 0-1

Goals Dieseruvwe 49, 52 (pen), Ferguson 69; Kosylo 33, Angus 90.

Yellow cards Crawford 41, Dieseruvwe 61, Cooke 90; Cooper 60, Osborne 80.

Red cards None; None.

Referee Aaron Jackson.

Attendance 3,839 (118 away).

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