ALTON travelled to bottom-of-the-table Follands on Saturday and from a game that was ruined as a spectacle by a poor pitch, a strong wind and some questionable referring came back with a point.
And they had to do it the hard way, coming back from two goals down to claim a share of the spoils.
Playing into the wind, Alton started brightly as a Steve Black through ball just failed to find Matt Grindel and was shepherded back to the Follands goalkeeper.
And from a Liam Knight throw, George Bowerman laid the ball back to Grindel but the ball got stuck in the long grass and his shot lacked power, allowing Barnett to save easily.
It soon became apparent that Follands had worked out the pitch, as the ball was belted from one end to the other at every opportunity, and a long throw from the home side saw King head wide from inside the six-yard box.
With the ball spending a lot of the time in the air, the referee rather bizarrely awarded Follands a free kick as two players tussled for a 50-50 ball, and worse was to follow for Alton as the free kick by Cox was wind assisted and caught Brewers goalkeeper Justin Courtnage out and ended up in the back of the net to give Follands the lead.
With the wind at their backs and a lead, Follands resorted to using the long ball even more.
Sean Evans headed away another free kick before Follands doubled their lead. A short throw on Alton’s right was crossed into the box and got caught in the wind and sailed into the far corner of the Alton net.
With a two-goal lead to defend, Follands were guilty of committing foul after foul, and surrounding the referee when he gave a decision against them.
But Alton pressed on in a bid to claw their way back into the match and Bowerman got in behind the Folland defence, the goalkeeper performed a sliding tackle outside the box and the ball fell to Steve Black, but his goal-bound shot was blocked.
Alton won a corner that came to nothing before Folland’s Walker had two good chances – first a header from a corner was blocked and from the block he shot high and wide. And the Brewers nearly conceded a third goal as Knight’s back pass was short and Jarvis pounced, but Courtnage was alert to force him wide and his shot went into the side netting.
Alton should have pulled a goal back on the stroke of half-time as Barnett flapped at a corner, but with the goal gaping the ball hit Phil Moore on his back and somehow Follands cleared.
With the wind at their backs in the second half, Alton took the game to Follands.
Evans headed a corner over before Alton got back into the game. Jamie Phillips’ cross went behind for a corner, Evans’ header was cleared off the line and as he went for the rebound he was fouled. From the resulting penalty, Moore gave Barnett no chance to reduce the deficit.
The home side’s Douglas was then cautioned for something he said or did just in front of the linesman before Alton equalised as probably one of the only free-flowing moves of the game saw Grindel score.
Courtnage found Perkins who in turn found Bowerman. He got to the byeline and his pull back was turned in by Grindel at the near post.
With their tails up, Alton took the game to Follands who were just as committed to preserving their point.
Bowerman’s cross got caught in the wind but just fell over the bar, before an off-the-ball tussle between Phillips and Follands’ Barnes resulted in a free kick to Alton and yellow cards for both players. Bowerman’s free kick came back off the far post, but despite a scramble Alton couldn’t force the ball home. It eventually came out to Perkins who shot wide.
Grindel then had a shot saved before Follands were reduced to ten men. A foul on Stuart Green by Douglas resulted in a minor scuffle which the referee decided was worthy of a yellow card to each player, adding up to a red for Douglas.
Worse was to come for Follands as Jarvis was sinbinned for questioning the referee’s decision.
With nine men on the pitch, Follands got everyone behind the ball and frustrated Alton by kicking anything that moved and whacking the ball into orbit or out of the ground at every opportunity.
Jarvis returned to the fray just in time to see Barnes dismissed for a second yellow, after elbowing Green as they both went up for a header. And it was an injury that curtailed Green’s game.
When play resumed, a Moore cross was headed just wide by Scott Sanderson before Moore tried a shot from distance that flew just over the crossbar.
The game finished with an Alton corner and again, following a scramble, Follands somehow cleared the danger.
Alton were left frustrated, but in their defence they did not react to the bully boy tactics and on another day could have won the game.
The Brewers will look to get back on track on Saturday as they head to Fawley in Division One of the Wessex League.
Alton: Courtnage, Phillips, Knight, Hunter, Moore, Evans, Black, Green, Grindel, Bowerman, Perkins. Subs: Rolfe, Fowler, Sanderson, Graham.