Frustration for Robins as Wood strike at the double then shut up shop

Report by John Edwards
Picture by Jonathan Moore
Altrincham 0 Boreham Wood 2
There was no lack of effort or endeavour, particularly in the second half, but Altrincham couldn't find a way of repairing the damage inflicted by two headed goals as Boreham Wood did a job on the Robins and walked away with the points at The J.Davidson Stadium.
It was an uphill task for Alty from the moment giant defender Will Evans nodded his side in front from a 25th-minute corner, and the incline became all the steeper when left-back Femi Ilesanmi popped up at the far post to double their advantage just two minutes into the second half.
There was no way back for the Robins, hard though they tried, as the durable, disciplined visitors demonstrated why they are one of the hardest sides to break down in the Vanarama National League when they set their minds to it.
Alty had winger Michael Gyasi (pictured) making his debut and fellow-loanee Miles Welch-Hayes his first home appearance at right-back on a cold, overcast, wintry afternoon.
Up front, skipper Jordan Hulme was given an outing in his favoured position, after patrolling the right flank at Chesterfield on Tuesday night.
Boreham Wood are known for their strong, physical, no-nonsense approach, and there was little in the early stages to suggest they may have modified their footballing philosophy, as they peppered the Alty area in the opening minutes.
Even so, it was Boreham Wood's Nathan Ashmore who was the first keeper to be called into action, as Alty put together a fine, sweeping move from one end of the pitch to the other in the fifth minute.
Finding himself with the ball at his feet inside his own area, Isaac Marriott had the presence of mind to delay releasing it until space opened up for a telling pass to sent Gyasi scurrying down the left touchline in acres of room.
When the on-loan winger cut inside and picked out Chris Conn-Clarke just outside the area, the little Alty playmaker hit a left-foot shot that Ashmore saved comfortably enough, falling to his right.
Hulme was doubtless eager to show he can still operate effectively as the main striker, but it was clear he was going to have his work cut out, with the enormous figure of Evans breathing down his neck.
Alty's captain has never been one to shirk a challenge, though, as illustrated when the pair tussled for possession and Evans ended up dragging the Robins frontrunner to the ground to stop him breaking clear at the expense of a free-kick.
Referee Garreth Rhodes decided against producing a card but was not so lenient soon after, when David Agbontohoma was booked for scything down Gyasi as the Alty newcomer tried to skip past him.
It was proving an evenly-contested if uninspiring first-half - matters not helped by a pitch that was cutting up in areas - but it was the visitors who broke the deadlock in the 25th minute.
An inswinging corner was floated in from the left, and the massive frame of Evans beat everyone to it on the edge of the six-yard box to head his side in front.
Byrne pursued the referee, arguing in vain that he had been impeded, and Evans' team-mates cheered in celebration, but there was otherwise a stunned silence inside the stadium.
Given the Wood centre-back was such an imposing unit, his aerial threat was an obvious weapon, but there seemed little Alty could do to blunt it, as the same formula almost produced a second goal for the visitors in the 29th minute.
Again, it was a Josh Rees delivery from the left corner quadrant, and, again, it was a simple case of Evans rising above everyone else, but there was a reprieve for Alty this time, as his header smacked against the bar.
To their credit, the Robins gradually forced their way back into contention around the half-hour mark, with Egli Kaja and Gyasi swopping wings and making some headway and Marriott and Josh Lundstram beginning to make their mark in the middle of the pitch.
But it was hard going against a well-drilled, disciplined Wood side who were keeping a tight rein on Conn-Clarke, despite the livewire forward's best efforts to apply his usual creative influence.
Alty could have done with a positive start to the second half, a statement of intent to instil belief into a near-2,000 crowd that all was not lost. Instead, they found themselves trailing by two goals within two minutes of the restart.
A clever change of direction by defender Chris Bush on the left of the area opened up the opportunity to chip the ball towards the far post, where Ilesanmi won the aerial duel to head home from point-blank range.
The Robins had it all to do, but they came close to reducing the arrears in the 54th minute when a flash of brilliance from Conn-Clarke led to a couple of near-misses in quick succession.
When the ball was drilled up to him near the halfway line, right in front of the dug-outs, he applied the faintest of touches to it, deceiving his close marker and leaving him flat-footed as the Alty forward turned on his heels and accelerated down the left flank.
Though a repeat of his memorable matchwinner against FC Halifax Town was denied by a defender's outstretched boot as he let fly from the edge of the area, it was a piece of ingenuity that gave Alty the lift they needed.
Lewis Baines headed a Conn-Clarke cross narrowly wide at the far post in the 61st minute and, seconds later, a forceful run down the right by Kaja ended with his goalbound effort being blocked.
When Conn-Clarke combined with Kaja on the right soon after and passed to Lundstram, the Alty midfielder cut inside and rifled a left-foot shot over the bar.
That was in the 65th minute, and Alty threatened again three minutes later when, after penalty appeals for a challenge on substitute Marcus Dinanga were waved away, Conn-Clarke hammered a shot that Ashmore tipped round the post at full stretch.
Still Alty pressed, but still the ball wouldn't bounce their way, as was apparent in the 78th minute, when a one-two between Kaja and Conn-Clarke opened up the Wood defence and gave Kaja the chance to deliver a low cross into the danger area.
It looked perfect for James Jones, but he was crowded out before he could get the ball out from between his feet, and the chance was lost.
A two-goal deficit was increasingly looking beyond the Robins, but they kept plugging away and went close in the 85th minute when a raking 20-yard effort from substitute Ben Pringle was just kept out by Ashmore, as the keeper dived low to his right.
It was to be Alty's last hope of at least reducing the arrears, as the Wood defence continued to hold firm and completed what they would no doubt consider mission accomplished.
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