Alty frustrated by resilient Stones

On the opening day of the 2022/23 Vanarama National League campaign and first competitive match in Alty’s new full-time era, the Robins were denied all three points against newcomers Maidstone United. 

A combination of a battling display by the visitors, the woodwork and some key decisions going against Alty, Phil Parkinson’s men were left frustrated with a single point to show.

It was a slow start from the hosts as it took time to settle with several new faces in the starting line-up making their debut for the club. 

It was the Stones who drew first blood with a whipped cross from Regan Booty in the fourth minute which deflected off Liam Brockbank and past a helpless Matty Gould.

The lead was almost doubled in the 12th minute as striker Jack Barham’s excellent run saw him clean through on goal but Matty Gould produced an outstanding finger tip save to divert the shot on to the post before grabbing the rebound.

It took Alty until, midway through the first half to settle down and it was interplay between Ryan Colclough and 18-year-old loanee Aaron Bennett that culminated in a long range effort by the former which went wide.

That signalled a change in momentum and Alty were growing into the game. It was Colclough again that drew a foul and subsequent booking for Hady Ghandour on 35 minutes but that free kick came to nothing.

Minutes later it was a 25-yard thunderbolt by Colclough against that drew an excellent save from Maidstone keeper Mersin as Alty were ramping up the pressure.

Liam Brockbank was next to test the Stones’ keeper with another effort from the edge of the area, and then Colclough again saw another superb long-range effort tipped onto the bar as Alty were getting closer to the equaliser.

On the stroke of half-time, the hosts got the equaliser they fully deserved as Colclough pulled the ball back to Chris Conn-Clarke who slotted home neatly.

The whistle arguably came at the wrong time for Alty who had Maidstone on the ropes, but they picked up where they left off in the second period.

Ryan Colclough once again slammed a stunning effort off the crossbar and that was then followed up by Toby Mullarkey hitting the post as a second goal seemed increasingly inevitable.

Play was somewhat disrupted by an injury sustained by James Jones on his second debut for the club but Jake Cooper came into the defence seamlessly.

Shortly after, the Stones were handed a blow as Ghandour tripped Conn-Clarke and was handed a second yellow card to reduce the visitors to ten men.

That handed yet more of the initiative to Alty but it dictated the way the visitors were playing.

With several warnings and bookings for time-wasting, the Stones were content to hold on to their point and they ultimately had a couple of decisions go their way to help them hold on.

The first was a penalty shout dismissed by the referee after Colclough got in front of his man and raced through on goal. Contact was made as the Alty forward was set to shoot, but the referee waved away claims.

In the dying moments, it was Colclough down the right this time that drove an effort across goal for substitute Marcus Dinanga to tap home, but inexplicably the linesman’s flag went up. Replays showed both phases of play were clearly onside.

A frustrating end for the Robins who could have won handsomely on another day but credit to the National League newcomers for their resilient display.

Plenty of positive signs for Alty despite the result with so many youngsters and debutants, but a performance to build on.