*Head boy - Josh Hancock nods home Jordan Hulme's cross, and Alty are level. Picture by Jonathan Moore.
Altrincham earned a replay at The J.Davidson Stadium on Tuesday after coming back to equalise in a game of several chances, stoppages and Alty corners at The Deva Stadium on Saturday.
Robins manager Phil Parkinson was absent from the game, due to his wife Sarah going into labour. Assistant-manager Neil Sorvel took charge of the team in Phil’s absence.
Alty made a nightmare start, twice spurning the opportunity to clear their lines and allowing Chester to square the ball to Matty Hughes, who made no mistake from the edge of the area to give his side a second-minute lead.
There was a positive response from the Robins, however. A minute later, as Alty pushed for an equaliser, Jordan Hulme went up for a cross from the right but clashed heads with Chester’s Danny Livesey.
While both players needed treatment, it was Livesey who came off worse, the centre-back having to leave the field to have his head wound bandaged. The eighth minute saw another stoppage, with Chester keeper Russ Griffiths this time needing treatment.
After a quiet spell, Alty began to exert some pressure, John Johnston breaking down the right wing and cutting inside, only to curl a pass that went beyond Hulme and trickled straight into Griffiths’ hands.
Following this, Livesey went down again to receive treatment, both managers seeing this as an opportunity to talk to their players and rehydrate them.
Four minutes after the eventual resumption, Alty almost had their equaliser. Andy White’s cross almost found Connor Hampson at the back post, but the left-back just failed to get the connection needed for a certain goal.
The next 10 minutes saw the Robins dominate possession and create several openings. Chester couldn’t clear far, and Alty kept coming at them.
The final chance of the half came Alty's way. Ash Hemmings’ corner was swung towards the far post, where Hulme was inches away from turning it in. The referee indicated four minutes of added time.
With seconds left, Jake Moult and Scott Burton collided in a 50-50 challenge that left the Chester player requiring treatment.
The referee blew his whistle with the hosts taking a 1-0 lead into the break. Alty were the much better team in the final 15 minutes, creating more chances and looking like they would be the likelier to score next.
Half-time: Chester 1, Altrincham 0
Chester opted to make two changes at the break - Burton and Joel Taylor replaced by their own James Jones and Iwan Murray.
It was the visitors who started the second-half the stronger, creating several chances in the first five minutes and troubling Chester’s keeper.
What followed was the most bizarre moment of football I’ve seen. Hulme collided with Griffiths, leaving the keeper with a nose bleed that required lengthy treatment on the pitch.
When that didn't do the trick, he made his way off and disappeared into the Chester dug-out. The assumption was that he either needed to change his blood-stained shirt or be substituted, but as the minutes ticked by, it became apparent the referee had decided to delay the game while Chester's medical team continued to treat him.
So for a total of eight minutes, while Alty fans behind the Chester goal howled their disapproval and chanted 'what is going on?', players and officials from both sides stood by the side of the pitch, waiting for Griffiths to be patched up.
Just three minutes after play finally got back underway, Johnston went down and required treatment.
After much pressing, and persistent, patient probing, Alty finally had their equaliser on the 75th minute. Hampson played a heavy pass down the left wing that was kept in by Hulme, who turned and aimed a pinpoint cross that Josh Hancock headed home.
Altrincham almost doubled their lead through Hulme, who found space for a shot that was blocked superbly by Livesey.
The only yellow card of the game came in the 86th minute, when Chester’s Murray brought down Johnston on the far side.
Due to the stoppages earlier on, the referee indicated 11 minutes of added time.
Chester made their final substitution of the game in the 91st minute, when Akwasi Asante made way for George Waring.
Neil Sorvel made his only change of the game in the 97th minute, goalscorer Hancock being replaced by Sean Williams.
Full-time: Chester 1, Altrincham 1
Attendance - 1,806
This was by far Altrincham’s best away performance this season. The players looked comfortable going forward against a good Chester side. I’m sure some fans will be disappointed that Alty didn’t grab the win and advance to the next round at the first time of asking.
The draw for the next round will be on Monday, but Alty will be turning their attention to Tuesday evening's replay at The J.Davidson Stadium, kick-off 7.45pm.