ALTRINCHAM booked their place in the first round proper of the 2016-17 Emirates FA Cup with a 3-1 over Matlock Town at Moss Lane on Saturday.

After Damian Reeves cancelled out Matlock’s opener through winger Niall McManus in the first half, Altrincham dominated in the second to progress.

A five-minute brace from Sean Miller blew the visiting Evo-Stik Northern Premier League side away just after the break.

Matlock’s miserable afternoon was compounded when, with 10 minutes to go, striker Marc Newsham scooped a penalty handsomely over the crossbar.

Jim Harvey’s Alty ended the match with 10 men, however, as a late, high tackle on Matlock’s Michael Williams by substitute Tom Hannigan saw him shown a straight red card.

Following back-to-back victories in all competitions – Morpeth Town in the FA Cup before Stalybridge Celtic in the league – there was a degree of optimism among the home supporters.

But that positivity soon waned as the lower-ranked side utilised the pace of striker Curtis Morrison as they looked to trouble Altrincham centre-backs John Cyrus and Alan Goodall on the counter-attack.

McManus was the threat from the right and he troubled left-back Josh Doherty on multiple occasions in the opening 45 minutes.

With the home side restricted to very few clear cut chances, talismanic forward Damian Reeves looked to open the scoring in audacious style as he attempted to lob goalkeeper Philip Barnes from just inside the Matlock half – but his effort sailed just over the bar.

But with 32 minutes on the clock there was a decisive breakthrough and it was no more than Matlock deserved as McManus twisted Doherty inside out before firing low into the bottom-right corner from the edge of the area to make it 1-0.

As home supporters cried: “Wake up its like watching England,” Harvey’s side needed a quick response to prevent Matlock from defending deep.

And five minutes after McManus wheeled away in celebration, Altrincham cult hero Reeves smartly controlled a fizzed right-wing cross with his back to goal, before turning and firing home to level the tie.

“Wake up, it’s like watching England!” cried the home supporters after a lacklustre start to the game.

At the break Harvey had a job on his hands – his side were well below par and were at risk of a cup exit if they didn’t find a greater intensity in the second half.

Yet, whatever Harvey said paid dividends almost instantly after the restart as after two minutes, Sean Miller tapped into an empty net at the far post after a cut back from the right side of the box to make it 2-1.

And five minutes later Miller was again on hand to place one Altrincham foot in the first round as his run from just inside the Matlock half was not closed down and, after being almost invited to shoot, he made the visitors pay with a stunning low drive.

The game petered somewhat after that third Altrincham goal but was almost reignited with 10 minutes to go when a clumsy challenge on Newsham just inside the area saw the referee award a penalty.

A short run-up was chosen by Newsham but his effort was scooped handsomely over the bar much to the delight of the jeering home supporters behind the goal.

There was to be one final twist as Altrincham substitute Hannigan was awarded a straight red card for a dangerously late tackle on Matlock’s midfielder Williams – a decision that Harvey had no complaints with post match.

The Greater Manchester-based side now await their first round opponents in Monday night’s televised draw.

By Nathan Salt

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