Report by John Edwards
Picture by David Munro
Altrincham 2 Yeovil Town 2
Egli Kaja chose the perfect way to introduce himself to Altrincham fans with a dramatic stoppage-time equaliser to salvage a thoroughly-deserved point against Yeovil Town at The J.Davidson Stadium this afternoon.
Signed on a short-term deal just 24 hours earlier, Kaja was on hand to haul Alty back on terms for a second time, just as it looked as though the game was up for Phil Parkinson’s side after the visitors restored their lead against the run of play in the 72nd minute.
The outcome meant the Robins are still searching for an elusive first Vanarama National League win this season, but there were passages of eye-catching attacking play that suggested the wait might end before too long.
After being caught out by an ill-advised back pass in the opening minutes of his debut at Maidenhead United on Tuesday evening, on-loan Manchester United keeper Dermot Mee would have been hoping for a nerve-settling start to his first home appearance in Alty colours.
His wish was duly granted, as he confidently left his line to claim a second-minute free-kick that was launched towards the Alty area and did the same again a minute later, this time making his way through a ruck of players to make the cleanest of catches.
There was nothing he could do about Yeovil’s opener in the ninth minute, though, a goal that came completely out of the blue, as Malachi Linton turned and hammered a shot that comfortably beat the keeper’s full-length dive to his right.
It was an unwanted jolt for the Robins, who had been on the front foot up to then, with Jordan Hulme testing keeper Grant Smith in the fifth minute and Ryan Colclough creating danger with a low cross that was finally scrambled clear after a surging run by Toby Mullarkey.
Alty stuck to their guns and fashioned another opening in the 20th minute after a sweeping crossfield pass from Elliiot Osborne to Lewis Baines was switched to Aaron Bennett, who jinked his way past a defender before curling a shot narrowly wide of the far post.
The Robins’ perseverance brought its reward in the 40th minute with an equaliser that was expertly crafted and superbly finished off by Mullarkey.
Chris Conn-Clarke was the architect with a spectacular run that took him past three challenges, and when his pass to Colclough was instantly played across the edge of the six-yard area, it just eluded the reach of Hulme but not Mullarkey, lurking beyond the far post and able to squeeze his shot home from the tightest of angles.
Alty were forcing the pace in the second half, not least when a slick link-up between Bennett and Conn-Clarke ended with Colclough cutting inside and forcing Smith into a save low down at his near post.
But just as they were seizing the initiative and looking the likelier winners, Alty were rocked back on their heels by a Yeovil sucker-punch in the 72nd minute, as substitute Gime Toure forced the ball home at the second attempt.
Alty boss Parkinson sent on his special reserves in an attempt to turn the game round in his side’s favour, and it paid off in spectacular style as, a minute into added time, Kaja’s decisive touch sent the ball flying into the net at the Golf Road end to the delight of the packed terraces behind the goal.