Words John Edwards | Picture Jonathan Moore
FC Halifax Town 0 Altrincham 0 (Alty win 6-5 on pens)
ALTRINCHAM were hoping to banish one of last season's most painful memories, and could there possibly have been a better way of doing it than by moving through to the fourth round of the Isuzu FA Trophy at the expense of FC Halifax Town courtesy of a penalty shoot-out?
It's difficult to imagine one, and the reaction of manager Phil Parkinson, his coaching staff and players as they celebrated Eddy Jones' decisive kick in front of the travelling Robins fans confirmed the elation they felt at turning the tables on the side who denied them a Wembley spot last April in such heartbreaking fashion.
Alty's prospects of achieving their aim in normal time were dealt a substantial blow when centre-back Sam Roscoe was harshly sent off for a first-half foul, leaving the Robins to see out the final 65 minutes with 10 men.
Halifax strove to make their numerical advantage count, but the Robins defended with such resilience and organisation that there were few alarms prior to the final whistle sounding to register the nerve-jangling spot-kick shoot-out.
Sam Johnson and Ethan Ross pulled off an outstanding save apiece, but the penalties were otherwise flawless until Halifax substitute Kane Thompson-Sommers crashed his against the bar, paving the way for Jones to step forward and book his side a fourth round trip to Kidderminster Harriers.
Matty Kosylo was back where he used to run the show on a regular basis during his days as a Shaymen mainstay,and he wasted no time darting along the right in the opening minute in a reminder to home fans of what they were once accustomed to.
There was more attacking intent from Alty moments later when a sweeping crossfield pass from Elliot Osborne picked out Justin Amaluzor in space on the right, only for his cross to be blocked behind for a corner.
The first real chance fell the way of the home team in the sixth minute, when Tylor Golden whipped in a low cross that danger man Millenic Alli just failed to turn over the line as he slid in.
It was an evenly-contested start, as might be expected after the way last season's last-four encounter needed a penalty shoot-out to separate the sides.
If anything, Alty were looking the more cohesive and comfortable in possession, but as the 20-minute mark came and went, there was still little sign of a breakthrough for either side.
The Robins were up against it after Roscoe was shown a straight red card that was contentious, to say the least, in the 25th minute.
The Alty centre-back slid across the sodden turf in an attempt to win a challenge on Max Wright, arriving a fraction late but unable to halt his momentum, given the slick surface.
The inevitable impact sent Wright sprawling, and, with howls of protest ringing round the ground, referee Mulligan reached to his back pocket to produce a red card. More protests followed, this time from Roscoe and his team-mates, but to no avail as the Robins were reduced to 10 men.
Manager Phil Parkinson reacted by sending on Lewis Baines for Kosylo to shore up a depleted back line, and Alty looked to be coping, not least when Chris Conn-Clarke drew a diving save from Sam Johnson with an angled drive from the left in the 33rd minute.
Halifax stepped up the intensity at the start of the second half, but Alty stood firm and managed to carve out a decent opening at the other end in the 54th minute, when Amaluzor combined well with Eddy Jones, only for Conn-Clarke to send the ball wide of the far post from the left of the area.
A foul by Isaac Marriott on the edge of the area almost proved costly in the 59th minute as Adam Senior hammered the resulting free-kick over the wall and forced a fine save from Ross, who reacted smartly to palm it over the bar.
The pressure was on, and the 10 men were having to defend resolutely to keep their goal intact. The one time Halifax looked to have carved the Robins open, substitute Kane Thompson-Sommers fired wide from an inviting position in the 79th minute.
Lifted by that near-miss, Halifax threatened again two minutes later with a snap-shot by substitute Rob Harker that brought the best out of Ross, who plunged low to his right to push it round the post.
So, on to penalties, and after Osborne's kick was pushed away by Johnson at full stretch, Ross replied in kind with a stunning one-handed stop from Adam Senior. Lewis Banks, Baines, Regan Linney, Amaluzor and Dior Angus all held their nerve before Jones applied the final blow to eliminate the holders at the first time of asking.
FC Halifax Town - Johnson, Golden, Galvin (Cappello 76), Summerfield (Thompson-Sommers 46), Senior, Stott, Hunter, Alli, Keane, Wright, Cosgrave (Harker 46). Subs not used - Cooke, Chikukwa,Wilson, Oluwabori.
Altrincham - Ross, Banks, E.Jones, Osborne, Kosylo (Baines 28), Marriott, Conn-Clarke (Linney76), Amaluzor, Cooper, Roscoe, Dackers (Angus 83). Subs not used - Donawa, Wilson, Gould.
Yellows - Galvin, Hunter, Thompson-Sommers; Kosylo, Banks, Cooper.
Reds - Roscoe.
Referee - John Mulligan.
Assistants - Michael Johnson and Scott Taylor.
Attendance - 665 (100 away).