Report by Joe Brayne
Picture by Jonathan Moore
Altrincham 2 Congleton Town 2 (2-4 on penalties)
Altrincham suffered Cheshire Senior Cup heartache after losing on penalties against Congleton Town at The J. Davidson Stadium.
After a thrilling 2-2 finish during normal time, the night proved to be Congleton’s as they slotted home all of their first four penalties in front of the Golf Road End.
Regan Linney and Ben Pringle were unable to convert from the penalty spot, allowing Lewis Short to secure a historic win for our visitors and end their 85-year drought in the competition.
Congleton had entered the break with a deserved 2-1 lead, having punished a lackadaisical Altrincham start. Despite the hosts enjoying the lion’s share of possession, Daniel Needham opened the proceedings for Congleton, having been allowed to drive into the box from the side-line.
Robins captain Jordan Hulme levelled the score, following an individual piece of brilliance to cut inside and lose his marker, but our visitors surged back ahead before the break following keeper Matt Gould’s own goal from a corner.
A drab second half was pepped up when Phil Parkinson’s double substitution injected pace back into the game. Hulme once again spearheaded the attack as he flicked the ball inside the near post in the 80th minute for Alty’s second equaliser.
Despite the Robins’ best efforts to spread a tiring Congleton defence, the Bears withstood a barrage of dangerous corners to take the match to penalties. The ninth-tier outfit never looked like missing from the spot as Short converted their fourth and final penalty to seal the ‘giant-killing’ victory.
A heavy evening dusk provided the backdrop as Altrincham looked to secure their first Cheshire Senior Cup in 14 years.
Congleton’s plan to sit deep and coax a higher Alty line paid dividends in the 11th minute after winger Daniel Needham drove inside the box to fire the opener past an out-stretched Gould.
Harry Perritt almost provided an immediate response after an industrious roam forward, but his chested volley could only hit the post before falling fortuitously in the hands of David Parton.
The Robins struggled to find passing space in the visitors' half, a problem that would persist throughout the 90 minutes. It would take a moment of inspiration from Hulme to level the proceedings, a first-touch cut inside before nestling a curling strike in front of the Congleton supporters.
Altrincham struggled to handle Congleton’s set-piece threat and were sucker-punched minutes before the break as Gould failed to control an in-swinging corner.
Aaron Bennett received a golden opportunity to equalise within four minutes of the restart, but the unmarked midfielder failed to hit the target.
Full-back Jordi Nsaka was given free rein in the second half to utilise his speed and threaten Altrincham with blistering counter-attacks. The Robins were fortunate to see a two-on-one opportunity in the 53rd minute slip away as Nsaka failed to find captain Tom Pope.
Altrincham manager Phil Parkinson rejuvenated the hosts with a double substitution in the 63rd minute – introducing the experienced Pringle and Saturday’s super-sub Zak Goodson.
A tiring Congleton defence dropped deeper and invited pressure on both flanks. Linney, who was gifted freedom on the right wing, whipped a near post cross for Hulme to flick behind Parton and secure his brace.
The Robins piled late pressure on with a series of dangerous corners delivered by Pringle but failed to produce a final moment of quality to snatch the winning goal.
Tasked with the unenviable duty of taking the first penalty, Linney fired the ball well over the crossbar, having opted for power rather than placement.
Consecutive goals from Peter Williams, Goodson and Darren Chadwick were snapped by Pringle’s forceful effort that cannoned off the crossbar.
Despite James Jones rifling a fine penalty in the top-right corner, following Ryan Read’s successful conversion, Congleton never let their advantage slip as Short fired home the winning penalty to send the travelling supporters into raptures.
Altrincham – Matt Gould, Eddy Jones, Isaac Marriott, Kyle Ferguson, Josh Lundstram, Jordan Hulme
(C), Luke Burgess (Ben Pringle 63), James Jones, Aaron Bennett (Zak Goodson 63), Regan Linney,
Unused substitutes: Lewis Baines, Owen German, Ryan Forde
Altrincham goals: Jordan Hulme 39, 80 (Penalties: Zak Goodson, James Jones)
Congleton – David Parton, Mackenzie Faulkner, Jordi Nsaka, Peter Williams, Ryan Read, Lewis Short,
Aaron Johns (Marco Fregapane 88), Shakeel Jones-Griffiths (Darren Chadwick 83), Tom Pope (C)
(Thomas Hampton 80), Ethan Hartshorn, Daniel Needham (William Buckley 92)
Unused Substitute: George Sankey
Congleton Goals: Daniel Needham 11, Matt Gould (og) 45 (Penalties: Peter Williams, Darren
Chadwick, Ryan Read, Lewis Short)
Referee: George Eaton
Attendance: 1153 (435 away)