Report by John Edwards
Picture by Jonathan Moore
Altrincham 1 Bromley 2
It had to happen at some point, but Altrincham's first defeat of the season was still hard to take after Bromley conjured a winner out of nothing just three minutes from time at The J.Davidson Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Locked at 1-1, Alty were beginning to exert growing pressure on the Bromley goal and were looking the likelier scorers, should the deadlock be broken, when possession was lost near the Pop Side touchline and substitute Todd Miller was played through to slot a low shot beyond Ethan Ross just 12 minutes after going on.
The now-customary double-digit helping of added time gave the Robins at least a glimmer of hope that they could yet maintain their unbeaten start to the campaign, only for two saves from impressive Bromley keeper Grant Smith - one laced with good fortune as he mishandled a Chris Conn-Clarke free-kick but saw it bounce off his shoulder to safety, the other an excellent tip-over - to prove decisive.
What a frustrating afternoon for Alty, not least for debutant Olly Crankshaw, who operated on the left flank and then the right and finally up front late on, all to no avail.
It wasn't for the want of trying by the new signing from Stockport County, who was clearly desperate to make a positive impact and so nearly did in the closing stages with a close-range effort that was brilliantly kept out by Smith.
A well-drilled Bromley defence held out, and the Robins were left to reflect on having gone six games unbeaten up to this point and having hauled themselves level with one of the goals of the season so far, an exceptional training ground routine from a corner that was executed to perfection.
Bromley opened the scoring with an eye-catching goal of their own, Corey Whitely cutting in from the left and unleashing a ferocious drive that flashed into the top far corner at a rate of knots in the 13th minute.
Back came Alty, and when they won a corner on the right in the 24th minute, Eddy Jones lined up what everyone assumed would be the usual inswinging delivery into the heart of the area.
Instead, he drilled it low towards the near-post, where Dior Angus met it with a flick of the boot that diverted the ball out towards the penalty spot into the path of the onrushing Justin Amaluzor, who crashed a first-time shot into the roof of the net.
Plaudits to those from the coaching staff who devised such a clever ploy and hats off to all three participants for playing their parts so astonishingly well. Has there ever been a training ground routine that has been executed quite so expertly? Brilliant stuff.
Alty ended the half strongly, with a weaving run by Conn-Clarke taking him twisting and turning past a couple of challenges and giving him the chance to test Smith in the 40th minute. With team-mates waiting in the middle, Conn-Clarke clearly thought he could catch Smith unawares by squeezing a shot inside the near post, but the keeper read his intentions and palmed it behind for a corner.
Elliot Osborne stung Smith's palms with a firmly-struck shot a minute later and, with first-half stoppage time ticking away, Angus so nearly finished off a lightning raid from a pinpoint Conn-Clarke cross.
It remained on a knife-edge in the second half, and though clear-cut chances were hard to come by, two of the most presentable fell to the Robins.
Firstly, the ever-dangerous Amaluzor sprinted clear down the right and crossed low towards Angus, who looked sure to score until Smith spread himself at the Alty attacker's boots and smothered the close-range shot in the 50th minute.
With the clock running down, and Alty patiently probing for a way through, the ball was played in from the left and Crankshaw made contact with an outstretched right boot, only for Smith to react instinctively to pull off a point-blank save and keep his side on terms.
That's is increasingly how it looked like finishing, until substitute Miller intervened to give Bromley a second win inside a week, after they had previously been without one, and leave Alty reflecting on how even one slight error can prove costly in the Vanarama National League.
Altrincham - Ross, Banks, James Jones, Roscoe, E.Jones, Amaluzor, Marriott, Osborne, Crankshaw, Conn-Clarke, Angus (Kosylo 80). Subs unused - Baines, Cooper, Joey Jones, Burroughs.
Booked - Roscoe, Marriott.
Attendance - 1,921 (76 away).