Report by John Edwards
Picture by David Munro
Altrincham 3 Woking 1
What an introduction to Altrincham fans for Regan Linney as he marked his first start in the red and white stripes with a goal and two assists as the Robins produced one of their most complete performances of the season to see off third-placed Woking at The J.Davidson Stadium.
Alty trailed briefly in the first half but were otherwise the promotion-chasing Cards' superiors in all departments as they combined a familiar silky passing style with a willingness to chase, harry and tackle anything that moved in a high octane display that must have filled manager Phil Parkinson with pride.
And at the heart of it all was new arrival Linney - with an honourable mention for Isaac Marriott - with an equalising goal from the penalty spot (pictured) and a hand in Alty's two other goals.
The young frontrunner's bustling style and eye for goal has already endeared him to Alty fans and is going to make him a firm crowd favourite, while Marriott the mighty was again a dynamic presence at the heart of midfield and must have run Linney close for the man-of-the-match award.
Recent signing Linney was promoted to the starting line-up for his full Alty debut after going on as a second-half substitute against Bromley on Tuesday night and looking lively and full of confidence.
Indeed, his eagerness to make an impression earned him a rebuke from the referee with exactly 30 seconds gone after a challenge on a Woking defender near the centre circle was deemed to be overly robust.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given Woking's reputation for favouring a direct approach, the ball was spending a significant amount of time in the air early on, with little by way of a cohesive passing move in evidence as the 10-minute mark came and went.
With Alty struggling to impose their passing style on the game in the opening minutes, it was Woking who were looking the more threatening as they pinned the Robins back.
When Alty conceded a free-kick near the edge of their own area in the 13th minute, Padraig Amond curled the resulting set-piece over the wall and was only denied by a flying save from Ollie Byrne, tipping it round the post at full stretch.
Woking were not to be kept at bay much longer, and they went ahead a minute later when a left-wing cross by Amond was measured to perfection for Marcus Dackers to meet with a header that nestled in the left corner of the net.
Credit to Alty, though. Far from allowing such a setback to sap morale or belief, they began to build attacks in the patient, probing way Phil Parkinson insists they must, and how it changed the pattern of play as those in gold suddenly found their defensive resilience being put to the test.
It was found wanting, too, as the Robins exerted mounting pressure and forced their way back on terms before the half-hour mark.
There was a taste of things to come for the visitors in the 25th minute when keeper Craig Ross struggled to reach a right-wing cross, following a link-up between Jordan Hulme and Miles Welch-Hayes, and Linney, lurking beyond the far post, hit the base of the upright from the tightest of angles.
A minute later, Alty earned themselves the perfect opportunity to draw level, as they were rewarded for continuing to push forward with poise and purpose, despite the pitch cutting up and making conditions difficult for their natural passing game.
Linney was again involved, gaining possession on the right and playing a pass inside to Josh Lundstram, who advanced into the area and was upended as he stretched to take an extra touch.
Despite the Woking protests, as the referee pointed to the spot, the Alty midfielder had reached the ball a fraction before the defender who lunged in, and the 26th-minute award looked a correct one.
We were into the 27th minute by the time order was restored and the kick could be taken, a nerve-jangling delay for anyone shouldering the responsibility from 12 yards, let alone a young newcomer to the ranks.
No-one would have known it, though, from the way Linney calmly waited for the all-clear from the match official then coolly sent the keeper the wrong way with an emphatically-despatched kick.
Alty were now calling the shots, and they threatened again when, after some impressive build-up play on the right, the terrier-like Marriott teed up Elliot Osborne for a rising drive that just cleared the bar.
Woking were first to threaten in the second half when Rhys Browne swivelled inside the area and hit a volley that took a deflection and flew narrowly wide.
It was Alty who went closest to another goal, though, when Lundstram was played in on the left of the area in the 52nd minute and drilled a low cross that was blocked into the path of Linney, standing near the left corner of the six-yard box.
The Alty marksman instinctively unleashed a first-time volley that was screaming towards the left corner of the net until crashing into a defender and being unwittingly diverted round the post.
Play was held up for some time just after the hour when Marriott was poleaxed by what looked like a stray elbow inside the centre circle. He needed lengthy treatment but, typically, returned to the fray after being patched up, a white bandage wrapped round his head and being worn like a badge of honour.
And wasn't it also just like the ferociously-committed little midfielder that he should be the one driving his side forward and providing the inspiration for Alty going in front in the 67th minute.
Seizing on a loose ball inside his own half, Alty's pocket dynamo powered forward, brushing aside one challenge after another, before playing the ball to Linney, who advanced down the right before delivering a low cross into the middle that perfectly picked out the run of substitute Maxi Oyedele for a close-range finish that sent the Golf Road End into raptures.
The points were safely in the bag for Alty in the 87th minute when Linney broke clear down the left and squared for Lundstram to pick his spot with a sidefoot finish into the bottom left corner.
Byrne was tested twice during eight minutes of added time, reacting brilliantly on each occasion to safeguard the two-goal cushion, but there could be no complaints from the home side after being out-fought and out-thought by an Alty team on top of their game.
Altrincham - Byrne, Welch-Hayes, J.Jones, Baines, E.Jones, Marriott, Lundstram, Osborne, Cashman (Oyedele 57), Hulme, Linney (Gyasi 88). Subs not used - Gould, Pringle, Bennett. Booked - Welch-Hayes.
Woking - Ross, Casey, Cuthbert, McNerney (Wilkinson 46), Amond, Moss, Browne, Nwaboukei, Hessenthaler (Lofthouse 70), Dackers (Daly 69), Ince. Subs not used - O'Connell, Kellerman.
Referee - Aaron Jackson.
Attendance - 1,828 (181 away)