Robins off to a flyer but lead slips away again

Words John Edwards

Southend United 2 Altrincham 1

ALTRINCHAM again proved fallible just before half-time as two quickfire goals late in the first half nudged them towards a fourth straight defeat at Roots Hall on Tuesday evening.

The Robins could scarcely have wished for a better start than the one Chris Conn-Clarke gave them with another piece of incisive sharp-shooting that put them in front in only the fourth minute.

But just as they looked like withstanding home pressure and going in with a slender lead at the break, they were stunned by an all-too-familiar one-two as Southend equalised in the 40th minute and scored what proved to be the winner a minute into first-half stoppage time.

Alty had some defending to do in the opening couple of minutes, but when they switched the focus to attacking soon after, they did so to stunning effect.

Alex Newby seized possession near the halfway line and motored forward before clipping a pass out to the left, where Conn-Clarke dropped a shoulder to open up space for a crisp low drive from the edge of the area.

Keeper Collin Andeng-Ndi went full length but was beaten all ends up as the ball flew inside the right-hand post to give the Robins the lead in only the fourth minute.

What a priceless asset Conn-Clarke is with his scoring output from an attacking midfield role, and his latest contribution took his goals tally to a remarkable 17 so far this season.

Southend, as might be expected, responded by exerting mounting pressure on the Alty goal, but the Robins were coping well, not least when Jake Cooper flung himself in the way of a goalbound shot to make a crucial block midway through the half.

On a rare excursion into Southend territory on the half-hour, Newby and Conn-Clarke again combined to good effect to set up Elliot Osborne for a shooting opportunity that he sliced wide from the edge of the area.

For all the defending they were having to do, Alty threatened again in the 38th minute, and again it was down to a flash of brilliance from Conn-Clarke.

Receiving the ball in a tight spot near the touchline on halfway, he feinted to pass to Eddy Jones, only to turn past a bamboozled defender and sprint towards the Southend area before hitting a shot that was deflected narrowly wide.

Southend made the most of their reprieve as they drew level in the 40th minute. Forner Alty loanee Marcus Dackers won the aerial duel for a left-wing cross beyond the far post and headed down for Harry Cardwell to control and fire home from close range.

Alty would surely at least retain parity for the half's remaining few minutes, but it wasn't to be as, despite Matt Gould going full length to parry an angled drive from Adam Crowther, another goal was conceded a minute into added time, Wes Fonguck taking a pass in his stride and poking a shot into the bottom corner.

The curse of conceding late in the first half had struck again, and Alty had it all to do in the following 45 minutes if they were to avoid a fourth successive defeat.

There was a suggestion they might be up to it in the 53rd minute when a foul on Isaac Marriott brought a free-kick in a dangerous position near the Southend area, with Conn-Clarke and Newby standing over it.

Conn-Clarke shaped to shoot but, instead, rolled the ball to his right for Newby to steady himself before drilling a low shot narrowly wide of the left-hand post.

At the other end, the ever-threatening Cardwell went close with a smart turn and low shot across the six-yard area and wide of the far post.

Time was running out for the Robins, but with Conn-Clarke around, there is always the sense anything might happen, and there was almost the unlikeliest of equalisers in the 81st minute when a corner from the left by the little attacker brushed the crossbar and flew to safety.

It was to prove the final threat Alty could muster, and the Robins must now dig deep and draw on reserves of stamina and energy for another long haul on the road on Saturday when they head for Dagenham & Redbridge.

Southend Andeng-Ndi; Scott-Morriss, Ralph (c), Crowther, Bridge, Husin, Cardwell (Waldron, 78'), Dackers, Miley, Fonguck (Wood, 78'), Demetriou. Subs not used: Sandat, Morton, Coker.

Altrincham Gould; E.Jones, Baines, Osborne, Marriott (c) (Kosylo, 74'), Conn-Clarke, Angus, Cooper, Roscoe, Wilson, Newby (Mooney, 77'). Subs not used: Byrne, Linney.

HT 2-1

Goals Cardwell 41', Fonguck 45'+1 | Conn-Clarke 4' (Newby)

Yellows Husin 58', Andeng-Ndi 82' | Osborne 83'

Reds None | None

Referee Jason Richardson

Assistants Steven Stott & Richard Wharton

Fourth official Aryton Hursey

Attendance 6,195 (31 away)

Next Up

Another away trip down south - it's Dagenham & Redbridge on Saturday (3pm) at the Chigwell Construction Stadium. Tickets for the game are available from our hosts here.

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