LEEK Town crashed out of the FA Cup after a controversial goal midway through the second half was allowed to stand.
Altrincham’s leading scorer Damian Reeves’ second attempt following a corner was hacked clear by Dan Smith. However, the assistant referee on the stand side indicated that the ball had crossed the line leaving irate Blues’ keeper Daniel Lloyd-Weston to earn a yellow card for his protests.
In front of a bumper 962 crowd, Blues more than matched a Robins’ side from two leagues higher for 70 minutes by turning in a gritty performance that frustrated their visitors reducing them to shots from outside the box.
But after Altrincham took a fortunate lead they pressed forward and wrapped the game up with a second goal after impressive defender Dan Smith was sent off for a second bookable offence.
After the game Blues’ boss Lee Casswell said, “ Both teams tested each other out in the early stages of the game but neither side really troubled the keepers.
Simon Richman lifted a shot over Lloyd-Weston’s goal in the 12th minute whilst at the other end Dan Shelley fired over from 25 yards four minutes later.
In the 21st minute James Lawrie dove over from 20 yards out and then Lloyd-Weston failed to get a glove on a cross from Matt Doughty but George Melling was on hand to clear the danger.
Three minutes later Nicky Clee delivered a free kick into the Leek box but former Blues’ loanee Jake Moult scooped a shot over the crossbar.
Despite this early pressure, Leek got the first shot on target when Matt Haddrell turned the ball into the path of Peter Wright who held it up before setting up Haddrell to drive in a shot with pace that was smartly pulled down by Stuart Coburn.
In the 33rd minute an Altrincham free kick into the box was looped into the keeper’s arms by Carl Rodgers and then Tim Sanders blocked an effort from Clee as the visitors tried to find their way through a resolute Blues’ defence.
Altrincham continued to press forward and Clee went on a run into the Leek box but his shot failed to trouble Lloyd-Weston before Smith did well to shepherd Lawrie down the left forcing the striker to shoot wide.
Leek came close to breaking the deadlock when a good move saw Shelley burst forward but the ball got tangled in his feet and a defender nipped in to clear.
The Robins’ goal had a lucky escape a minute into added time at the end of the half when Sanders attacked the box and Coburn had a rush of blood. He raced off his line but the Leek defender won the race to loop a cross on for Haddrell whose header was gratefully claimed by the relieved keeper.
Leek soaked up some early pressure after the break and in the 47th minute Lloyd-Weston did well to tip over a shot from Lawrie whilst two minutes later the Leek keeper claimed a 30-yarder from Rodgers.
Blues put a good move together in the 52nd minute when Shelley played the ball back to Matt Bell who crossed low into the Robins’ box where Karl Charlton sold the dummy letting the ball through his legs for Haddrell whose shot was deflected for a corner.
Sanders flighted the flag kick in and Charlton rose only to steer his headed narrowly wide of the far post.
Despite mounting pressure from the visitors the Leek defence stood firm and on the hour they mounted an attack with Ross Davidson grafting to lay the ball up for Haddrell who left it for Wright but his shot flew inches wide of the upright.
Lawrie and Clee both saw chances go begging and they almost paid when a great ball out of defence by Shelley released Wright into the box who took one touch to control the ball only to prod his shot straight at the keeper.
Altrincham took a disputed lead on 69 minutes when Reeves’ second attempt following a corner was adjudged to have crossed the line.
Leek were forced to push forward and in the 73rd minute a good ball from Hall found Wright but again he shot straight at the keeper.
Blues’ job was made much harder in the final 15 minutes after Smith was dismissed for a second caution by a whistle-happy referee.
The visitors then won three corners in quick succession before Lloyd-Weston punched the last one clear and then a shot from Moult thudded into the Leek keeper who gathered at the second attempt.
In the 87th minute Leek were denied a penalty when Shaun Densmore appeared to handle inside the box but the appeals were turned down.
Altrincham went on to ensure their victory in the final minute after Lloyd-Weston had finger-tipped away a shot from Lawrie but the ball fell to Richman beyond the far post and he returned it back into the six-yard box where it fell inside the opposite post.