*Action man .. Lewis Walters impressed with his non-stop running and tracking back on the left flank. Picture by Michael Ripley.
This is an extended version of an article press and media officer John Edwards submitted for inclusion in this week's Sale and Altrincham Messenger.
Phil Parkinson struggled to contain his frustration after Chester escaped two possible red cards and denied Altrincham their first win of the season with a deflected equaliser four minutes into stoppage time at the Deva Stadium on Tuesday night.
Striker George Waring was fortunate not to be shown a second yellow after catching Tom Hannigan with a high boot early in the second half, while referee Richard Holmes appeared to reach for his pocket then change his mind after the already-booked Simon Grand committed another foul soon after.
A deflected 20-yard shot that left keeper Steven Drench wrong-footed added insult to injury for Parkinson, just as it seemed an early own goal would prove enough to reward Alty's defensive discipline with all three points.
'It was a bitter pill to swallow, coming in the 94th minute, especially another deflected goal,' said the Alty boss, whose side opened their campaign with a 3-1 home defeat to York City last Saturday. 'If that shot goes straight through, Drenchy saves it. We are disappointed, but we would probably have taken a draw at the outset, just to get the season up and running.
'The defensive discipline we showed was great, but I just think we're not quite clicking yet. There were a few sparks pre-season I was really happy with, but we just look a little bit disjointed on the ball at the moment. We're playing some great stuff at times but then making decisions we don't normally do.
'We knew exactly what Chester were going to do. They have their way of playing, getting it in to their big man up front, but we coped with that all night long, until a deflection four minutes into added time let them back in it. It wasn't a bad point, when you consider they are full time outfit under a management team who have won this league with Salford City. I think our fans needed to see we can come to a place like this and get something.
'Our defensive resilience was really tested, and we stood up to it. Everyone contributed to that. I thought the team as a whole defended as if their lives depended on it. We defended resolutely, and, at times, played some nice football. Our goal was an example of that. It was a great bit of interplay between Andy White and John Johnston and a dangerous early cross from JJ that I thought Jordan Hulme had knocked in.
'It turns out it was one of their defenders, but that's only because Jordan was right there with him, applying pressure. It was a great bit of play. That is us. There were flashes of it on the night, but not as much as we are capable of. There is far more to come from us, and we will get there.
'It was a fiercely-fought game, with no quarter given, but I have to say I was just baffled a little bit by some of the decisions that were made. I felt Chester were very fortunate not to have ended the game with nine men. I can't understand how some yellow cards were given out, yet two of their players managed to stay on the pitch for similar offences after already being booked, especially when you look at Sean Williams' second yellow against York.
'It's the inconsistency that astounds me. You try to keep the players calm and doing the right things, but they are going to get very frustrated when they see inconsistent officiating.'
Parkinson sprang to the defence of Nathan Arnold, who missed the game through illness, and backed him to come good in Alty colours.
'Nathan has had an unfortunate start to the season, because he has had a few little muscular pulls as well as this illness,' he said. 'Jordan Hulme was ill before the game as well, and was touch and go. Not that you would have known from the way he played - I thought he was superb.
'Nathan should be all right for Saturday, but he needs to be able to train on Thursday. I think that's why he was slightly off it last Saturday, but, as I've said before, he is going to get into positions like he did against York, when he could have won the game for us, with the chances he had. He is going to be that player, a Johnny-on-the-spot who will get you something out of nothing.
'He might not always be the one who catches the eye, but we're hoping that's what he can deliver for us. He wasn't quite at it Saturday, but he hadn't trained during the week, and that affected his performance. Hopefully he will be right for Thursday and then the Gloucester game.'