The relief at Anstey Park was tangible as Alton celebrated their first league victory of the season.
They beat Horley Town 2-1 in a match of three penalties and two red cards – although manager Kevin Adair said that was misleading.
For one thing, Alton were worth more than such a narrow margin of victory – and the game wasn’t physical at all.
Adair said: “The first win was a big relief, especially for the group. I could see things were okay – apart from the games against Horndean and Badshot Lea, the margins were small – a goal here, a goal there.
“We scored in every game bar one – we didn’t have big problems, just lots of little ones. We made individual mistakes and got punished for them and we weren’t clinical enough when teams made mistakes against us.
“You could see it was coming.
“Morale in the camp has always stayed good, even through the tough period, and on Saturday you wouldn’t have argued if we had won by three or four.”
And the red cards? “I can’t argue – our players were protecting our keeper Lewis Mees who is only 17 who has taken a big whack.
“The challenge was strong and probably a bit unnecessary but I’m not sure there was a lot of malice in it.
“Oli Graham has got a bit involved in the melee – I don’t want to get all Arsene Wenger about it but I didn’t see it, although we didn’t make too much of the red card so I think something happened.
“I’m all for protecting each other but we have to control our passion. We’ve discussed it, apologies have been accepted and we move on.
“That’ll probably be a three-game suspension for Oli – he’s club captain so we’ll miss him, but at least we have a lot of players back now.
“We are now going into games where we need to pick sides, rather than it picking itself, which makes a difference. It’s good when people know there’s someone waiting to take their place, whereas before we didn’t have that. Players knew if they were available, they were playing.
“Good to get Matt Benham back too – he’s a big player for us and he’s been out since the start of the season.
“We don’t have a game the weekend so we have organised a friendly against an Aldershot development under-23s tomorrow night at home, and we have our development game on Saturday, so we can give minutes to some of our players.
“When you have a couple of positive results you want to keep going.”
Alton have signed Louis Russell from Alresford. “He’s a big, powerful, quick forward and he played very well on Saturday,” said Adair.
“Siph Mdlalose has been with us since the start of this season and now he’s played a few games he has settled into the side.
“The scoreline makes it look tight but Siph scored with two penalties and missed another one, and we also rounded the keeper and then missed an open goal. It could have been a bigger win but I didn’t care about that – it was three points and that was the important thing.
“Siph has four for the season now which is good for him. The way we play we don’t depend on our strikers to score – it’s not the be all and an end all for me – but on a personal level they want to score.”