ALTON exited the FA Cup with a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Southern League side Sholing in the First Qualifying Round.
A record crowd of 538 watched the match at Alton’s 3G Anstey Park Enclosure on Saturday, September 4 – this was the eighth highest published attendance of the 120 ties played in the round.
The home side gave a good account of themselves and fought back strongly having gone two goals behind in the early stages of the game.
The visitors opened the scoring on ten minutes when they broke up the pitch and turned the ball in at the near post.
This seemed to stun the home side and the visitors took full advantage and poured forward to win numerous corners that Alton struggled to repel in the air, with a free header leading to the second goal on 20 minutes.
Any concerns around the ground that Alton might capitulate to the higher-ranked side were quickly swept aside as the home side went on the offensive and though hard work and possession clawed their way back into the game.
The home side got their reward when Luke Perkins was fouled in the penalty area, and Matt Graham coolly dispatched the penalty on 34 minutes to make it 2-1.
In the second half Sholing wrestled back the initiative and home keeper Keiron Greene made a superb save when he pushed a shot from long range on to the bar.
The home side remained a threat on the break and the visiting keeper also had to be alert as he pushed shots from Matt Benham and Jack Fowler away for corners.
Sholing’s third goal came midway through the half with a cool finish past Greene.
The home side pushed for a second goal that might have set up a grandstand finish, but they were unable to create a clear cut opportunity.
Alton manager Kev Adair was happy with his side’s efforts against their higher-ranked opponents.
“The good thing for me is the lads were disappointed with the result,” he said. “That shows we’ve built a good positive mentality as a squad.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game, but it was a game we felt we could win.
“It was good to test ourselves against a team from the next level – that’s where I want to take the club. I’m demanding of the lads as I want us to be as good as we can be and grow the club as a whole.”
Alton returned to Wessex League Premier Division action on Tuesday night, losing 2-0 at home to AFC Portchester.
Portchester threatened from the off and only the inside of the foot of the post stopped them taking the lead within the first two minutes.
The hosts were dealt a blow after 20 minutes when they lost central defender Scott Sanderson, who had to leave the field of play when he took a nasty blow to the face that required hospital treatment.
Portchester took the initiative and opened the scoring on 32 minutes. A slick move down the left resulted in a simple finish from ten yards.
The visitors then repeated the same trick down the right-hand side on 41 minutes to take a two-goal lead.
The major incident in the game came a couple of minutes before half time.
Luke Perkins chased a ball into the box and while retreating was kicked by the visitors’ goalkeeper. A Portchester defender then got involved and in a matter of seconds there was a melee of players pushing and shoving one another.
Having calmed the situation the referee took the appropriate action and issued a red card to two Portchester players and Perkins.
Ten against nine in the second half changed the context of the game as there was now lots of space to be exploited.
Alton dominated possession but only created half chances as the visitors kept a good defensive shape and comfortably saw out the game.
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