Two crucial penalty decisions in the final 15 minutes of a fairly drab Hallmark Security League first division encounter left AFC empty-handed.
New signings Jordan O’Mahoney, Danny Thompson and Akwasi Kwateng started but AFC were without Jack Williams, Dean Ing and Matt Muscroft against their top-six hosts. The wet surface was not conducive to flowing football and the strong Sandbach side applied early pressure.
Even so, AFC had the first clear-cut chance on 20 minutes, when Kwateng got free on the left. His cross was met with a poor punch by the keeper and the ball feel to midfielder Ben Duffield, whose shot bounced over.
At the other end, Callum Kirkland tipped a rising snapshot over his bar, then on the stroke of half-time Duffield fired into the side-netting.
The second period followed the same pattern, with the home side having the bulk of possession but rarely threatening. Mechanics had leaked seven a week earlier at Widnes but showed far more resolve in defence and looked on course for a well deserved point until the 77th minute.
A penalty was awarded against Marc Taylor, who protested he had made no contact with the Sandbach striker, and Josh Lane stroked home from the spot.
The game became ill-tempered and AFC’s James Corbett lucky to see only a yellow card for a lunging tackle. But they responded well and had a strong penalty claim for handball after a Duffield surge.
But to their amazement, the offence was ruled to have taken place outside the box and a free-kick was awarded.
To confirm that AFC were out of luck, Matt Richardson later hit the bar and Stephen Betteridge dragged a shot wide in the final minute.
Victory for Atherton LR meant AFC slipped back to third-bottom but with an eight-point gap over the bottom two. They are at home to leaders Litherland REMYCA on Saturday.
Blackpool: Kirkland, O’Mahoney, Betteridge, Thompson, Corbett, Taylor, Charnley, Richardson, Tomlinson, Duffield, Kwateng; subs: Hanslip, Errington, Footman.