ALTRINCHAM progressed to the first round of FA Cup after edging Chester FC 1-0 in a tight clash at Moss Lane.
Chester began the game well but both teams struggled to create chances in the opposition’s box.
As the half progressed, Altrincham came into the contest and were the dominant team as the half-time whistle blew.
They came out after the break raring to go and it took them only six minutes to find the goal that would win them the match, Damian Reeves scoring his third goal of the season after a save from keeper Jon Worsnop.
Chester came into the game after two wins on the bounce and looked eager to continue this run of form, beginning the match with energy and intent.
The away fans were vocal from the start, their team looking the more confident and seeing more of the ball in the opening ten minutes.
The Blues knocked the ball around well and the first chance of the game came from an ambitious overhead attempt by defender Michael Kay in the sixth minute.
Ryan Higgins, playing as a right wing-back, had a great chance to put Chester ahead but couldn’t get over the ball and sent a header blazing over the bar.
Miss aside, Higgins was Chester’s most threatening player, showing pace and verve to continually force his way down the right and put Altrincham on the back foot.
They failed to capitalise on their early dominance, however, allowing Altrincham to come into the game, attacking the flanks to expose the vulnerability of Chester’s 3-5-2 formation.
Altrincham went on to have the better of the first half chances, left-back Adam Griffin and forward George Bowerman both forcing saves from Worsnop.
Going into the break Altrincham looked like they had weathered the storm and were now enjoying their football, perhaps having overcome some early nerves.
They looked keen to resume this once the second half kicked off, with Jordan Sinnott, son of manager Lee, shown a yellow card for an overzealous tackle on Chester’s Jonny Hunt.
Altrincham continued pressing high up the pitch, winning a free kick just outside the area. The ball came straight at keeper Worsnop and he failed to hold onto it, allowing Reeves to slide home and put his team in front.
Seven minutes later, Ross Hannah looked to reply with a stinging shot from range that forced Altrincham keeper Tim Deasy into a very fine acrobatic save.
Chester skipper Ian Sharps was having a solid game at the back, but one particularly strong tackle caused a confrontation between him and Altrincham’s James Lawrie. The referee allowed both off with a warning.
Two minutes later, Altrincham’s Simon Richman went down in the box after being taken out by Worsnop, and the ref pointed to the spot.
Both sets of fans were in uproar as confusion descended over the stadium. Altrincham looked ready to take the penalty, but the ref just talked to the players for a while before handing the ball back to Chester for a free kick. No cards were shown.
Chester were encouraged by the decision and put Altrincham under pressure for a period, substitute Tom Peers, only 19, coming very close to force a save from five yards out.
Ultimately, it was to be Altrincham’s day, and they spent the final ten minutes in full control of the game, playing with intensity to force corners and keep the ball deep in Chester’s half.
Altrincham progress to the first round proper of the FA Cup, a competition in which they have a fine history, having progressed further than any other semi-professional team.
Altrincham: Deasy, Griffin, Moult, Havern (c), Leather, Lawrie, Richman, Reeves (Heathcoate 90’), O’Keefe, Bowerman (Clee 74’), Sinnott.
Substitutes not used: Swift, Williams, Davis, Stouppis
Chester: Worsnop, Sharps (c), Kay, Higgins (Richards ‘62), Heneghan, Hunt, Hannah, Rooney, Shaw (Peers 72’), Mahon, Hobson (Hughes 52’).
Substitutes not used: Forth, Thomson
Referee: Richard Wigglesworth (South Yorkshire)
By Thom Whyte at Moss Lane