Report by John Edwards
Pictures by Jonathan Moore
Altrincham 2 Stockport County 4
In what was an archetypal game of two halves, the result may have gone the way of the visitors but there was plenty about the first 45 minutes that should fill Altrincham fans with encouragement at The J.Davidson Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Stockport County, fresh from the narrowest of near-misses in the League Two promotion play-off final and with most of their big guns in the starting line-up, were no match for Alty in a high-quality first half as the Robins deservedly ended it a goal to the good, courtesy of an accomplished finish by Regan Linney.
The usual pre-season custom of making wholesale changes in the second half marked a turnaround in fortunes as Stockport struck four times before Alty rounded off an entertaining afternoon with the goal of the game by summer signing Justin Amaluzor.
Confirmation, perhaps, that when it comes to needing back-up, County have greater resources to call on, but that should take nothing way from an impressive first half that suggests there is cause for optimism in the Alty camp, with another Vanarama National League campaign just three weeks away.
Lethal Linney - Alty scorer Regan is congratulated by his team-mates.
A glancing header by Antoni Sarcevic from a left-wing cross that sailed wide of the far post was about as near as Stockport came to troubling Ollie Byrne in an opening half that increasingly saw the Robins on the front foot.
Midway through the half, Linney linked up well with Chris Conn-Clarke on the left before delivering a cross that Justin Donawa headed narrowly wide at the far post.
Linney was proving a handful, as usual, almost forcing Ben Hinchliffe into a costly error with his persistence as the keeper over-elaborated trying to clear his lines, and it was the Alty danger man who broke the deadlock before half-time.
A pass was swept out to Eddy Jones in space on the left, and when the full-back curled a low centre across the face of the six-yard box, Linney was on hand to meet it with an unerring sidefooted volley that cannoned off Hinchliffe on its way into the net.
Nearly another - Linney is denied by the keeper in the second half.
There was no question an Alty side looking solid at the back and industrious moving forward were good value for their interval lead, but it all changed in the second half as a new-look County line-up punished one or two defensive lapses.
When Lewis Banks miscued an attempted clearance, Sarcevic pounced on the loose ball to equalise, and there was a horror moment for Byrne when a long-range shot from Callum Camps squirmed through his grasp to give County a 2-1 lead.
The Alty keeper was a picture of dejection when he was substituted for Matt Gould soon after, and it is to be hoped the error does not prey on his mind too much with another new season so close at hand.
Class, Kossy - so good to see Matty Kosylo back in action.
Nick Powell calmly lifted a shot over the advancing Gould to increase County's lead, and it became 4-1 when Connor Lemonheigh-Evans converted from close range in the 78th minute.
But the best was saved to last, as some slick Alty approach work ended with Amaluzor spotting County's keeper off his line and calmly curling a left-foot shot from distance beyond his reach and into the top left corner of the Golf Road End net.
On to Wythenshawe Town on Tuesday night, and there is something to build on after an initial 45 minutes in which Alty outshone a team who will start the new campaign as one of the favourites to win the League Two title.