Words Joe Edgar | Pictures Jonathan Moore
ALTY went toe-to-toe with Vanarama National League leaders Chesterfield, coming up just short on a cold evening in Derbyshire.
Living up to their reputations as two of the best ball-playing teams in the league, both sides were keen to control possession. The Spireites looked to press and win the ball back high up the field, but the Robins were not deterred from playing out from the back, making for a fascinating battle.
It was Altrincham who got the better of the early exchanges, as they managed to bypass the home side’s press and manoeuvre the ball into dangerous areas. Their first goal-scoring opportunity dropped to Elliot Osborne, who was unmarked from a corner. The ball dropped to the midfielder at the back post, but he was unable to convert the opportunity on what was his 100th appearance for Alty.
Altrincham’s impressive start continued to be converted into chances. Osborne was involved once again, as he played a pass in behind the Chesterfield defence to Regan Linney. With a quick drop of the shoulder, the forward evaded his defender and fired an effort towards goal. The shot was deflected, curling agonisingly past the outside of the post.
On the 25-minute mark, a net bulged, but this time it was Altrincham picking the ball out of the net. Against the run of play, the ball was slid to Michael Jacobs, running towards the by-line. The midfielder cleverly cut the ball back into the middle of the Alty box, where Ollie Banks' powerful shot found the bottom left corner, past Matt Gould.
Chesterfield grew into the game after their goal, but it was Altrincham who continued to create the better opportunities. After a wayward volley from Dan Mooney, a clinical opportunity was created and executed by the dynamic Alty frontline.
Alex Newby broke quickly down the left and played a low cross into Linney, and with a moment of great innovation, Alty's number nine played a perfect backheel into Chris Conn-Clarke’s path, who displayed his usual ruthless finishing, blasting the ball into the net from the edge of the box.
Unfortunately for Altrincham, the momentum – which was firmly in their favour for the first half – swung towards the hosts in the early parts of the second period.
Chesterfield were able to pin Alty in their own half and sustain attacks with more regularity. Their build-up play was intricate, but they struggled to break down the stubborn Altrincham defence.
A header from Ash Palmer was comfortably saved by Gould, but the goalkeeper brought into the team on late notice after Ethan Ross pulled up during the warm up, was left relatively untested.
The home team continued to push forward, looking for a winner, and their attacking persistence was eventually rewarded. James Berry received the ball in Altrincham’s final third and played a quick one-two with Ollie Banks. The substitute shifted the ball onto his right foot, striking a ferocious effort past Gould.
The visitors looked to respond in the final 10 minutes by throwing players forward. Attacking changes were made and the 11 men on the field gave it everything, but Altrincham were unable to draw upon the same level of threat they possessed in the opening 25 minutes.
Despite the result, however, it was a very commendable performance from Phil Parkinson’s men. Chesterfield have dropped only two points at home all season, and Altrincham pushed them all the way to the end.
Chesterfield Tyrer; Horton, Naylor, Grimes (c), Oldaker, Grigg (Quigley, 82'), Jacobs (Berry, 70'), Dobra (Mandeville, 70'), Palmer, Sheckleford, Banks. Subs not used: Williams, Jones.
Altrincham Gould; Banks, E.Jones, Baines, Osborne, Marriott (c), Linney (Angus, 75'), Conn-Clarke, Cooper, Newby (Kosylo, 84'), Mooney (Amaluzor, 72'). Subs not used: Roscoe, Wilson.
Goals Banks 25' (Jacobs), Berry 83' (Banks) | Conn-Clarke 45' (Linney)
Yellows Dobra 68', Berry 88' | Angus 89'
Reds None | None
Referee Dale Baines
Assistants Martyn Mitchell & Wayne Cooper
Fourth official David Jones
Attendance 6,571 (172 away fans)
Another big Vanarama National League away game - this time down at Southend United on Saturday (3pm).
Tickets for the Roots Hall clash can be bought from our hosts here.