Report by Joe Ward
Picture by Jonathan Moore
York City 1 Altrincham 2
Altrincham are tantalisingly close to stepping out at Wembley after seeing off the challenge of York City with goals from Jordan Hulme and James Jones to earn themselves a place in the Isuzu FA Trophy semi-finals at the LNER Community Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
With York City fresh from an emphatic 3-0 win at Bromley on Tuesday, it was always going to be a tough hurdle to clear, but Alty rose to the challenge in fine style with a disciplined performance, establishing a 2-0 lead and restricting the Minstermen to a consolation goal in added time.
How the travelling Alty fans - officially numbered as 663 but looking and sounding a lot more - celebrated at the final whistle, as they had for much of a game they increasingly sensed was heading their team's way.
Regan Linney's unavailability, due to being cup-tied, opened the way for another young up-and-coming frontrunner, on loan Manchester United prospect Joe Hugill, to lead the line, but it was a much more familiar Alty attacking spearhead who set his side on their way to the last four, Hulme breaking the deadlock with an unerring finish after 40 minutes.
When Jones directed a header beyond the York keeper in the second half, the Wembley dream was a step nearer becoming a reality, and a stoppage-time reply from the home side came too late to make any discernible difference, as manager Phil Parkinson led the celebrations with a jubilant Alty contingent at the end.
After a 15-minute delay to kick-off, Alty only had to wait another eight minutes for their first sight of goal, as Maxi Oyedele pounced on a misplaced pass in the York defence but was ushered away from the danger area after playing a quick one-two with Tyrese Sinclair.
York replied with a couple of on-target efforts, but both were comfortably dealt with by Ollie Byrne, the Alty keeper gathering a 14th-minute header by Kouogun and again saving with ease when Duku tried his luck from just inside the area.
The best chance so far fell to the Robins in the 27th minute when Lewis Baines chested down an in-swinging free-kick from Isaac Marriott beyond the far post but saw his well-struck shot blocked by a York defender.
It was only delaying the inevitable, though, as Hulme expertly brought down a cross from Eddy Jones and hammered a shot past keeper Ryan Whitley to put Alty in front and trigger an eruption of noise from a ecstatic travelling support.
Stung by the breakthrough that sent them in trailing, York began the second half on the front foot and threatened in the 47th minute when Dan Pybus whipped a ball into the box for Luke James to test Byrne with a glancing header that the Alty keeper made light work of with a confident catch.
The home team weren't going to have it all their own way, though, and Alty made it clear their mindset was to double their lead, rather than merely safeguard it, as Hulme fastened on to a pass from Sinclair in the 51st minute and hit a shot from distance with such conviction that Whitley was relieved to parry it behind for a corner.
The all-important second goal duly materialised 11 minutes later as, following a foul on Sinclair out on the left, Eddy Jones curled the resulting free-kick into the area, where namesake James met it with a header that looped beyond Whitley to give the Robins the comfort of a two-goal cushion.
York almost reduced the deficit in the 69th minute when a low drive by substitute Ryan Fallowfield was deflected narrowly wide, and Byrne was forced into action 10 minutes from time with a tip-wide from a James effort.
A clean sheet eluded the Robins when Lenell John-Lewis headed past Byrne, but, by then, we were five minutes into added time, and there wasn't the slightest possibility the home side were going to deny Alty a place alongside FC Halifax Town, Barnet and Gateshead in the semi-finals, the draw for which is on TalkSport 2 at 3.15pm on Monday. Bring it on!