Goalless! Yes, you read that right.
Altrincham - the Skrill North’s most prolific attackers - and Boston United, who started the evening just one goal behind on 74, defied the odds as they played out a goalless draw at Moss Lane.
How neither of these promotion chasers found the net in a contest which was played at full pelt, with the ball moving from end-to-end at speed, is anyone’s guess. But what it lacked in netbusters, the contest more than made up for with tension.
United made two changes to the side which beat Gloucester City 2-0 on Saturday.
Conor Marshall and Junior Konadu - who clashed heads with each other during that match - were both ruled out. Rene Steer, back from suspension, and Indy Aujla moved into the starting XI, while Marc Newsham shrugged off his knee injury to take his place on the bench.
Newsham is the only player to have turned out for United in their previous two trips to Moss Lane, which finished as 6-1 and 7-1 batterings. While that horror show may sit in the back of his mind, many of this current squad only know United’s 3-2 victory over the Robins earlier in the season, and that allowed the Pilgrims to make the trek in a confident mood..
Earlier in the day Alty’s Nicky Clee was named as the Skrill North Player of the Month, but Aujla was showing him no respect and earned a third-minute booking for a crunching challenge which left the winger in a crumpled heap.
Just seconds after play resumed United defender Piergianni was also in the book for a tug on James Walshaw. The Robins forward looked through on goal and Piergianni’s punishment could, and should, have been worse.
It was the hosts who dominated the early exchanges with their trademark free-flowing football. But apart from two chances for Damian Reeves - an off-target header and a lunge which saw him fail to connect - and Clee’s deflected free kick they offered little by the way of a goal threat.
At the other end United were looking very effective on the break with the pace of Ricky Miller and clever one-touch interplay between Spencer Weir-Daley and Liam Agnew creating the best chances of the first half.
Stuart Coburn did well to parry Agnew’s well-struck free kick before Weir-Daley made the most of Gianluca Havern’s complacent defending. However, it took a telling tackle from Scott Leather to block his goalbound shot.
Miller then created the best chance of the opening 45 minutes when he brushed past Adam Griffin on the left flank before cutting inside and drilling a low drive which Coburn did well to save at his near post.
The opening 25 minutes of the second half continued in that end-to-end fashion, but with less cutting edge. Altrincham’s attackers began throwing frustrated glances at one another as a handful of good positions were wasted, especially by Jake Moult who shot lazily off target.
Then suddenly the game sprung into life with James Lawrie twice threatening the United goal. A 25-yard free kick was well saved by Lewis King before an angled effort fizzed over.
Boston’s first effort of the second half saw Coburn block Miller’s strike.
But King was back in action moments later, scrambling across his goal to force Simon Richman’s effort away from danger.
Miller then saw two further chances fall at his feet as the game became stretched. The angle was against him as he sliced wide but perhaps he should have done better with an effort he guided wide from six yards out.
Deep into stoppage time, Jamie McGhee hit a drive at the Robins goal which slipped inches wide of the post. And with that the game’s final chance went begging.
With Brackley and Guiseley both winning, United slipped out of the play-off spots. But in the grand scheme of things, this hard-earned point may well still prove vital.
ALTRINCHAM: Coburn, Densmore, Griffin, Rodgers, Havern, Leather, Lawrie, Richman, Walshaw (Perry 75), Reeves, Clee (Moult 35); Subs (not used): Marshall, Doughty, Wilkinson.
UNITED: King, McGhee, Steer, Dowie, Garner, Piergianni, Milnes (Galinski 77), Aujla (Fairclough 64), Miller, Weir-Daley (Newsham 77), Agnew; Subs (not used): Galinski, Hewitt, Ross, Fairclough, Newsham.
Ref: Joe Johnson.