*Cheers Peers .. Tom Peers gets a pat on the back from Conor Branson and handshake from Josh Hancock after making it 1-1. Picture by Michael Ripley.
Altrincham’s fourth pre-season friendly ended in a 2-2 draw against Atherton Collieries on Tuesday night, with Tom Peers and Max Harrop grabbing the goals.
Eager to put last Saturday’s disappointing 6-0 loss to Crewe Alexandra behind them, Phil Parkinson’s men started the game with some intent, as Simon Richman’s early effort cannoned off the underside of the crossbar, before eventually being cleared from danger.
But it was the home side who took the lead after just seven minutes, following a dubious penalty decision from the referee. The decision came seconds after Tom Hannigan was seemingly fouled by Atherton’s Tom Bentham, who pulled the Alty defender's shirt before making a darting run into the box where his progress was halted by a Toby Mullarkey challenge that looked fair but was deemed to be a foul.
Despite a small protest from Altrincham defenders, the penalty was given and Bentham stepped up to send keeper Tony Thompson the wrong way from the spot.
The Colls came close to doubling their lead just two minutes later, after a mishit pass from Thompson failed to reach Hannigan. Jack Egan intercepted the ball but failed to keep his cool, as he skewed his effort high over the open net.
The remainder of the first half was controlled comfortably by Altrincham, with the Robins continuously testing Atherton’s keeper, Greg Hartley.
Connor Hampson did well to get a free-kick over the wall in the 25th minute, but his effort was directed straight at Hartley who gathered up the ball with ease.
Josh Hancock came close shortly after, as he fired in a shot on the turn, but Hartley was there once again to tip it over the bar for a corner.
Altrincham were awarded another corner in the 30th minute, following a wonderfully worked counter-attack. Recent signing Conor Branson expertly clipped the ball over to John Johnston on the far right flank with pinpoint accuracy. Johnston then played the ball in to Shaun Densmore, whose shot on goal was parried by Hartley.
The resulting corner was curled beyond the far post, where Mullarkey knocked it towards goal for Peers to stick a leg out and flick it into the bottom corner of the net.
Another save from Hartley, seconds before the half-time whistle was blown, prevented Peers giving Alty the lead, as his shot at goal was well saved by the Colls number one.
Bentham’s strike early on in the second half was a golden opportunity for Atherton to go back in front. Gaz Peet played the ball in for the striker, who failed to beat Thompson from just a few yards out.
Atherton continued to fire shots at Thompson’s goal as the time ticked away. Ben Hardcastle’s strike was blocked, but only as far as Marcus Perry, who failed to keep down his attempt on goal as it flew over the crossbar.
However, it was Altrincham who managed to find a breakthrough, after an incredible 30-yard free-kick from Harrop made it 2-1. Harrop, who had made a real impact since coming on at half-time, curled the ball with pace and inch-perfect accuracy into the top left corner past a helpless Hartley.
The midfielder attempted to re-create his wonder goal just minutes later with another free-kick from a similar distance out, but Hartley was this time able to get a hand to the ball at full stretch to keep it out.
Alty’s lead was short-lived however, with Hardcastle taking full advantage of a defensive mix-up between James Jones and Thompson. A miscommunication between the pair allowed Hardcastle to pounce and slot the ball into an empty net, bringing the score level for a second time.
Harrop, once again at the forefront of another Alty attack, brilliantly clipped the ball over the head of an opponent to find Jordan Hulme, who played it back to him. But Harrop was unable to add a finishing touch to the move, placing the ball wide from a tight angle.
The last real chance of the game came from Alty, stemming from a crunching tackle by Branson in the centre of the pitch which simultaneously played the ball into Matt Chadwick, who failed to find the target, leaving the score locked at 2-2.
Altrincham’s pre-season campaign continues this Saturday afternoon as they take on a Blackpool X1 at The J.Davidson Stadium.