Altrincham 2 York City 1
Report by John Edwards
Picture by Jonathan Moore
There is always a slight sense of apprehension, as well as excitement, when the live TV cameras come calling. No-one wants to let the club down, on or off the pitch, under the scrutiny of a nationwide television audience.
The responsibility can weigh heavily, but it rested easily on the shoulders of all concerned at The J.Davidson Stadium on an evening that was a credit to everyone of an Alty persuasion.
A Remembrance Day tribute before kick-off that was observed faultlessly, as might be expected, a raucous atmosphere created by Robins fans in a near-2,400 crowd and Alty’s players rising to the occasion to show the Vanarama National League in the best possible light.
What more could BT Sport have wished for on an all-too-rare excursion to these parts that could just become a more frequent occurrence, given the spectacle they witnessed?
It didn’t exactly go according to the script in the early stages, York edging in front from a corner in the 15th minute, but it was all Alty from the half-hour mark onwards, as Phil Parkinson’s side turned on the style and secured a thoroughly-deserved three points with two excellent goals from Elliot Newby and Ryan Colclough.
Opinion can often be divided over the most deserving recipient of a man-of-the-match accolade, so it was perhaps fitting there were two on offer on Saturday, with Newby winning the BT Sport version and Colclough carrying off the sponsors’ Harvey Nichols bottle of champagne.
They were both outstanding, pivotal to a performance that gradually improved to such an extent it belonged in the eye-catching category by the final whistle.
Such attacking verve was all the more impressive, in light of the early uncertainty that allowed York to snatch a 15th-minute lead, Ollie Byrne getting a hand to Maxim Kouogun’s header but unable to keep it out after a corner had been nodded back across goal by Michael Duckworth.
What a test for the Robins’ resolve, but it became increasingly apparent they may well be up to it as the half wore on and signs of their true capability began to appear.
Chris Conn-Clarke had a shot saved by Ethan Ross in the 20th minute, and, as Alty finished the half strongly, Toby Mullarkey almost crowned an impressive return from injury with a goal, firing narrowly wide from the edge of the area.
Right on half-time, Alty should have been level after a slick left-flank raid ended with Colclough picking out Conn-Clarke in the middle, only for the on-loan forward to hesitate just long enough for Ross to smother the danger.
Could Alty continue where they left off at the start of the second half? The answer was emphatically in the affirmative, as they levelled matters in the 54th minute.
Colclough, surely the ultimate nightmare for any National League defender, shrugged off an attempt to hold him back and set up Eddy Jones on the left for a cross that was met first time by Newby with an assured finish that made it 1-1.
What proved the winner in the 74th minute owed much to on-loan Stockport County striker Connor Jennings growing into the role of Alty target man and putting in a performance that fully justified the air of expectation when he arrived at Moss Lane nearly a week ago.
It was his first-time flick, a wonderful piece of skill as he turned and executed the pass in one movement, that found Newby, and when the ball was played into the path of Colclough, Alty’s wing wizard steadied himself for a moment before firing unerringly past Ross into the top corner.
What a goal, a brilliantly worked and flawlessly finished stunner that was fit to win any game, and it duly stood as the decisive moment in this one.
With James Jones much more like his old self alongside the ever-dependable Lewis Baines at the back, Isaac Marriott making his presence felt in midfield and Jennings and Newby looking the part in the company of the exceptional Colclough, there were so many positives from an Alty perspective, not least the three points that keeps them clear of danger in an ever-competitive National League table.