Frustration for Robins as first-half dominance counts for nothing
Report by John Edwards
Picture by David Munro
Scunthorpe United 2 Altrincham 0
Two second-half goals condemned Altrincham to a frustrating defeat at Glanford Park after they set the tempo in the first half but failed to turn their dominance into goals.
Manager Phil Parkinson has called for his side to be more cut-throat at both ends of the pitch often enough this season, and that was the one shortcoming that proved so costly on Tuesday evening.
They dictated proceedings for long spells in the first half, stringing together passes and building quick, incisive attacks that had their struggling hosts on the back foot.
But, crucially, they had nothing to show for their supremacy, and when Ollie Byrne erred for the first goal and a second was awarded after the Alty keeper so nearly clawed the ball away from the line, the game swung decisively the way of a Scunthorpe side who must have felt they had been let off the hook.
Jordan Hulme was given the frontrunning role ahead of Regan Linney, who was on the bench, and the Alty skipper delivered his side's first attempt on goal in the sixth minute.
A driving run by Josh Lundstram from near the halfway line had Scunthorpe backtracking, and when Hulme fastened on to the midfielder's pass, he cut in from the left and tested keeper Aaron Chapman with a low right-footed shot.
Alty's renowned possession game appeared to be back in excellent working order again early on, after malfunctioning at Wealdstone on Saturday, and it fashioned far and away the best chance so far in the 15th minute.
After a spell of short, sharp passes at close quarters inside the Scunthorpe half, Elliot Osborne threaded a superb pass through to Tyrese Sinclair, who turned and hit a low drive inches wide of the left post from the edge of the area.
Long throws and set-pieces seemed to represent Scunthorpe's best hope of a breakthrough, whereas the Robins were taking the eye with some slick, progressive approach play that at times had the home side chasing shadows.
Alty threatened again in the 28th minute when the ball was played out to the left, where Ben Pringle's low cross was met by a first-time side-foot finish from Sinclair that would surely have ended the deadlock but for being blocked near the line.
Little, if anything, had been seen of Scunthorpe as an attacking unit, but they went close with the last kick of the half when a deflected effort from Harvey Bunker almost beat Byrne but was smothered on the line by the Alty keeper.
Alty spurned a great chance to take the lead in the 46th minute when Osborne robbed a Scunthorpe player 20 yards out, only for Pringle to take it off his toes then overrun the ball, allowing another home defender to step in and clear the danger.
Despite looking the more accomplished side throughout the first half, Alty went behind in calamitous circumstances in the 48th minute.
A diagonal run towards the right by Cameron Wilson ended with a low cross that Liam Feeney met with a mishit shot. It should have been a routine save for Byrne, but the Alty keeper spilled it at the feet of Richie Bennett, who had a simple tap-in from point-blank range.
It seemed to knock the Robins out of their stride, but there was at least a glimpse of their usual cohesion when they almost equalised in the 64th minute.
A prolonged spell of possession created the opening, with Osborne, Lundstram and Isaac Marriott all involved and Sinclair firing narrowly wide of the far post after being set up by Hulme.
Generally, though, this was not the Alty of the first half, and imposing themselves in the final third was proving a struggle.
There was no way back for the Robins when a contentious second Scunthorpe goal left them with too much to do in the 75th minute.
A right-wing corner was met first time by Will Smith, whose crisply-struck volley hit the left post and bobbled towards the net. There was a slight delay while the officials tried to determine whether the ball had crossed the line before Byrne clawed it away, but, to Alty's exasperation, the verdict went the home side's way.
Linney entered the fray in an attempt to locate a finishing touch that had proved elusive all night, but it was to no avail as Scunthorpe stood firm and saw the game out.
Scunthorpe: Chapman, Ogle, Whitehouse (Pugh 64), Feeney (Shields 68), Richards-Everton, Butterfield, Wilson, Leake, Bunker, Smith, Bennett (Elliott 79). Subs not used - Boyce, Shrimpton.
Altrincham: Byrne, Perritt (Bennett 66), J.Jones, Ferguson, E.Jones, Marriott, Lundstram, Osborne, Pringle (Cashman 84), Sinclair (Linney 76), Hulme. Subs not used - Gould, Baines.
Attendance: 2,545 (68 away).