Ryan to the rescue as Robins roar back to salvage a point
Altrincham 2, Scunthorpe United 2
Report by John Edwards
Picture by David Munro
Ryan Colclough hammered home a late leveller against his old club to deliver a priceless point for Altrincham on a night of high drama at The J.Davidson Stadium.
For well over an hour, Alty looked to be on course for an all-important first win of the season, following an opening goal from Elliot Osborne on the stroke of half-time.
Two goals in the space of four minutes midway through the second half turned the game on its head and raised the unwanted spectre of a Scunthorpe win that would have lifted them above Alty and left the Robins bottom of the Vanarama National League.
It was a fate Alty flatly refused to accept, as they roared back, with substitute Egli Kaja playing a key part and ex-Scunthorpe winger Colclough claiming the vital equaliser with nine minutes left.
A point was the very least Phil Parkinson's side deserved, and it could so easily have been all three, as they poured forward and carved out enough openings to have sent Scunthorpe home empty-handed.
The search for an elusive opening win continues, but Alty will surely get their hands on it before long if they keep playing with this level of conviction.
Scunthorpe started brightly and won a corner inside the opening minute, after a good run down the right by Elliott Whitehouse, but no-one was exactly illuminating proceedings in a safety-first opening.
After exactly three minutes, not even the floodlights were.
The bulbs on the main stand side of the ground gave up the ghost, and referee Jacob Miles had no option but to usher the players to the touchline while the fault was dealt with.
It was a full seven minutes before power was restored and the game was able to resume with a dropped ball to Alty inside their own half.
As perhaps might be expected of sides occupying the bottom two places in the table, it remained cagey and cautious, with the 20-minute mark passing without either goal coming under serious threat.
Alty looked hard done by soon after when Eddy Jones latched on to a Ryan Colclough pass down the left flank and appeared to have his shirt pulled, only for the referee to wave away appeals for a free-kick in a dangerous area.
The shadow boxing continued, though Alty threatened to land a telling blow in the 23rd minute, when Colclough picked himself up from being fouled on the left and swung in a free-kick that Toby Mullarkey headed narrowly over.
Scunthorpe were almost opened up by a sublime piece of skill from Chris Conn-Clarke a couple of minutes later, a deft first-time touch from a sweeping crossfield pass rolling the ball into the path of Ross Barrows, whose low centre was cut out.
The same two players combined again in the 35th minute, Barrows winning a header on this occasion to set up Conn-Clarke for a testing low cross that was smothered by the keeper.
Alty looked to be gaining the ascendancy, but there was a glimpse of why Scunthorpe spent so long in the Football League, prior to their relegation last season, when Robert Apter produced a snap-shot out of nothing from 25 yards that was flying towards the top corner until Ollie Byrne stretched out a hand to tip it behind for a corner.
With Josh Lundstram’s undoubted quality increasingly in evidence in central midfield, Alty were beginning to get a grip of the game as it entered no less than eight minutes of stoppage time.
They made full use of the allowance for the floodlight failure, too, as they deservedly went in front before the break through Osborne.
Barrows’ pass found Conn-Clarke, and when his fierce left-foot drive was beaten away by the diving Marcus Dewhurst, Osborne was perfectly placed to force the rebound home from a tight angle.
In much the same way as the 45 minutes that preceded it, the second half began with some patient probing from both sides but little by way of penetration from either.
Scunthorpe forced Byrne into a save in the 51st minute, but, in truth, it was a routine stop for the Alty keeper as he smothered Jacob Butterfield’s long-range effort near the foot of his right-hand post.
It was a warning sign for Alty, though, as the visitors stepped up the pace and began to press for a way through a resolute Robins rearguard.
Even so, when the equaliser came, in the 65th minute, it left Alty shaking their heads in disbelief, given how close they had come to extending their lead just seconds earlier.
A defensive lapse was seized on by Marcus Dinanga, and when his pass to Osborne was swiftly switched inside to Eddy Jones, the Alty left-back’s powerful left-foot shot looked destined for the top corner, only for Dewhurst to spring to his left and palm it away.
In no time, the ball was worked up the pitch to the Alty end, and when Apter’s run down the left was followed by a cut-back to Butterfield, the experienced midfielder’s scuffed shot somehow found its way into the bottom corner of the Robins’ net.
Worse followed four minutes later when Osborne challenged Alfie Beestin in the air on the edge of the area and was harshly adjudged to have climbed on the Scunthorpe substitute's shoulders.
To the dismay of the Alty midfielder, referee Miles immediately pointed to the spot, and when the protests subsided, striker Joe Nuttall confidently despatched the penalty to Byrne’s left, as the keeper dived to his right.
What a hammerblow for the Robins after all the effort that had gone into gaining their slender advantage and preserving it, but they soon shook it off, as Kaja entered the fray on the resumption and set about making his mark.
Within five minutes, the winger was latching on to a pass from Barrows and trying his luck from distance with a firmly-struck low drive that Dewhurst did well to smother.
Osborne almost claimed his second of the night in the 79th minute, chesting down a Colclough left-wing cross beyond the far post and volleying narrowly over as he fell backwards.
Two minutes later, Alty were back on terms, Kaja doing brilliantly on the right and delivering a cross that Scunthorpe’s defence struggled to deal with, under a challenge from Dinanga, and that fell obligingly for Colclough to lash into the roof of the net from close range.
Only one team were going to win it from here, and it was so nearly Alty in the 84th minute, as yet another Kaja cross was backheeled agonisingly wide by the enterprising Colclough.
It wasn’t to be, as time finally ran out, and the search for a first win continued. But it will surely end soon, on the evidence of a spirited, full-blooded response to the disappointment of a week last Saturday at Solihull.