Report by John Edwards
Picture by Jonathan Moore
Yeovil Town 1 Altrincham 1
Altrincham's sequence of Vanarama National League victories ended in dramatic and controversial fashion as James Jones experienced a night of contrasting emotions at Huish Park.
Another notable three points looked to be Alty's for the taking after centre-back Jones headed home from an inswinging 22nd-minute corner to crown a dominant first 45 minutes for the in-form Robins and send them in at half-time with a thoroughly deserved 1-0 lead.
It was a different tale in the second half, as Yeovil stepped it up and took control, but Alty still looked like holding on for a fourth win in 11 days until being stunned by a 78th-minute penalty for handball by Jones, who was shown a straight red card.
The Alty defender argued it was accidental but to no avail, and, after he was finally forced to accept his fate, the spot-kick was drilled unerringly past Ollie Byrne to leave the Robins battling it out with 10 men to ensure they did not leave empty-handed.
Alty looked a side buoyed by a morale-boosting three-match winning run in the opening stages, as they established control in midfield and carved out two decent openings inside the first quarter of an hour.
Unsurprisingly to those who have watched those three convincing victories, Regan Linney was heavily involved in both Alty near-misses.
In only the third minute, the recent signing from FC United of Manchester gained possession on the left of the area and made light of two close markers with a clever turn that was very much in the mould of Jordan Hulme in his pomp.
The Alty frontrunner looked perfectly placed to add a decisive finish but lost control just as he appeared primed to capitalise on the space he created, Yeovil's defence heaving a sigh of relief as they scrambled the ball clear.
Ten minutes later, a pass threaded through by Isaac Marriott gave Linney another opportunity to underline his prowess for wriggling free of the tightest of markers.
Another turn his shadow failed to read suddenly put Linney in space just inside the area, but as he aimed a sidefoot finish towards the bottom right corner, keeper Grant Smith dived to his left to turn it round the post.
Only one team had looked like scoring, and they duly did in the 22nd minute from the simplest of set-piece routines.
Eddy Jones swung a left-footed right-wing corner towards the edge of the six-yard box, and James Jones rose unchallenged to direct a header over the line from five yards.
It was no more than Alty deserved, and they soon made it clear their intention was to increase the lead, rather than safeguard it.
A great combination between Maxi Oyedele and Tyrese Sinclair on the left in the 25th minute ended with the on-loan Manchester United midfielder finding Linney in what looked a threatening position and probably would have been but for an offside flag stopping him in his tracks.
Five minutes later, another lightning Alty break so nearly produced a second goal, as Elliot Osborne burst clear from deep inside his own half and picked out Sinclair in space on the left.
When Sinclair switched the ball smartly across the pitch to Linney on the right of the area, the Robins striker looked to have done everything just as he should, as he went round the keeper and rolled a shot towards an unguarded net, only for Owen Bevan to come to Yeovil's rescue with a goalline stop by the foot of the near post.
It was all Alty, and when a free-kick was floated into the area in the 40th minute, it fell for Linney, who hammered a shot over the bar from 15 yards.
Five minutes into the second half, Alty's alertness again took the eye, as Josh Lundstram reacted first to a ball bobbling across the edge of the Yeovil area and homed in on it to drive a shot narrowly over.
After looking so comfortable for so long, the tide began to turn, and there was finally a scare for Alty in the 58th minute when a right-wing corner was met by Alex Fisher with a header that Byrne did well to parry, though help was still needed from his nearby team-mates to scramble the ball to safety.
Yeovil were looking brighter and more purposeful than in the first half, and there was another moment of concern for the Robins in the 63rd minute when a ball was played into the box from the left.
Byrne initially came for it only to change his mind and step back, but he more than made amends for any hesitancy with a leap to his right to claw away a goalbound header from Fisher.
Control surrendered to a resurgent Yeovil, Alty were beginning to live dangerously as the midway point of the second half approached.
A second goal would have been handy to relieve the pressure, and Hulme almost delivered one in the 68th minute. There was little room for the Alty skipper in a crowded area, but that hardly mattered as he twisted and turned to create space for a low shot that Smith smothered, diving to his right.
A Yeovil goal that had been on the cards for much of the second half finally materialised in calamitous circumstances for Alty with little over 10 minutes left.
A mishit shot in the 77th minute looked as though it should have been a routine save for Byrne, but the Alty keeper could only shovel it round the post for a corner.
When the flag-kick came over from the right, Byrne failed to connect cleanly with an attempted punch, and, as the ball was prodded towards the Alty net from point-blank range, it struck James Jones' right arm on the line.
The referee immediately pointed to the spot and produced a straight red card for the luckless Jones, whose claims that he couldn't get out of the way and had not handled deliberately fell on deaf ears.
We were into the 78th minute by the time the penalty could be taken, and there was little chance for Byrne to redeem himself, as substitute Jordan Maguire-Drew drove the kick confidently and firmly into the top left corner of the net.
Down to 10 men, Alty sent on Danny Cashman and Ben Pringle for Sinclair and Linney, with the focus now very much on preserving a point, rather than adding to it.
Credit to the depleted Alty ranks, they remained strong and resolute and made sure all their sterling first-half efforts did not go unrewarded.