Report by John Edwards
Picture by Ben Roberts
Macclesfield 1 Altrincham 2
Lewis Banks' first goal for Altrincham and an audacious free-kick from Chris Conn-Clarke gave the Robins the derby honours in their penultimate pre-season friendly at a rain-soaked Leasing.com Stadium on Wednesday evening.
In a lively encounter against a Macclesfield side who could be a fair bet for a second successive promotion on this showing, Alty just about shaded it as they recorded their second win so far in what has been an eventful programme of warm-up matches.
Right-back Banks was on hand to rifle home a low left-wing cross in the 17th minute, and the Robins were home if not exactly dry in the 65th minute when Conn-Clarke outwitted the Macclesfield keeper with a free-kick from fully 40 yards.
A late breakaway goal reduced the deficit for the visitors, but there were few further alarms for Alty in what was an extremely useful work-out with just one more friendly to come, on Sunday against Manchester United under-21s, before the serious stuff starts the following Saturday.
Macclesfield play on a 4g plastic pitch these days, but there's nothing remotely artificial about the fierce rivalry that still exists between these two long-time foes.
It was evident in the build-up, with some Alty fans expressing misgivings about the welcome that might await them at Moss Rose, and there was an edge to proceedings once the game got underway, with Macclesfield fizzing passes around from the first whistle and carving out a chance after barely a minute when James Berry fired over from inside the area.
Alty fashioned an opportunity of their own that went to waste when Matty Kosylo opted to try a backheeled pass rather then having a shot himself, but it was the home side who were doing most of the early pressing.
Alty's defence were standing firm, though, and it will have done debutant keeper Ethan Ross a power of good that when he was tested for the first time, 10 minutes in, he came for a corner and caught it cleanly.
With Kosylo and Regan Linney increasingly imposing themselves and running at defenders, Alty were beginning to gain a foothold in the game, and both players were instrumental in a move that led to a 17th minute breakthrough for the Robins.
The build-up ended with George Wilson finding space on the left flank for a cross that Banks met with a first-time low drive that flew into the net to silence home fans behind the goal.
It was proving a typically-feisty Macc-Alty derby, and Jake Cooper had already gone into the book for a cynical foul when two more names were added to the list following a 25th-minute flashpoint.
It was caused by a dreadful challenge by Tre Pemberton, who not only caught Kosylo with a late, high foul but pushed him to the ground after being nutmegged by the Alty attacker.
Kosylo understandably took exception, and when players from both sides piled into the resulting fracas, it took the referee a few moments to restore order before showing a yellow card to both Pemberton and Kossy.
Not much had been seen of Justin Amaluzor, but he sprang into life in the 36th minute with a brilliant sidestep on the right side of the area and low left-foot drive that flew into the side netting.
The lead was hardly looking comfortable as half-time approached, with Macc going close a couple of times and Berry clipping a shot narrowly wide in the 43rd minute.
But Alty could perhaps argue they were worth it, if only for the clinical nature of the goal that separated the sides and was in stark contrast to much of the home side's first-half finishing.
It had been an open, end-to-end half, and the second 45 minutes started in much the same vein, with space in midfield being exploited by both teams in turn.
It was proving an entertaining spectacle, with Alty playing a full part and almost doubling their lead in the 57th minute with a fierce drive from half-time substitute Justin Donawa that was palmed away by the keeper at full stretch.
Berry became the fourth player to be cautioned on the hour when a slalom-like run by the former Alty forward ended with what looked a theatrical tumble near the edge of the area and was viewed as simulation by the referee.
Alty made it 2-0 in the 65th minute with a typical piece of impudence by Conn-Clarke, who was rightly deemed to have been impeded as he squeezed between two defenders and climbed to his feet to take the free-kick, a good 40 yards out to the left of the area.
Sensing that the keeper was expecting it to be floated deep into the box, Conn-Clarke put his head down and quickly delivered a low shot towards the near post that sneaked past the keeper's desperate dive and crept inside the upright.
The keeper should have done better, but you could only admire Alty's record signing for having the audacity to attempt something so unlikely and backing himself to pull it off.
Alty were stroking the ball around with confidence now, and there was almost a third goal when a superb defence-splitting ball from Amaluzor found Conn-Clarke, whose shot was blocked by the keeper's legs.
But, just as a welcome clean sheet beckoned, Macclesfield pulled one back in the 75th minute with a breakaway goal that was tough on Alty's on-loan keeper Ross.
Kane Drummond sped clear from the halfway line, but Ross looked to have saved the day by blocking the resulting shot, only for the winger to fortuitously bundle home the rebound.
It scarcely mattered as Alty saw the game out in increasingly difficult conditions to set themselves up nicely for Sunday's visit of Manchester United under-21s, followed six days later by the launch of another Vanarama National League campaign against Dagenham & Redbridge at The J.Davidson Stadium.