Altrincham’s first-ever game in mainland Europe ended in defeat as hosts NEC Nijmegen ran out winners at the Sportpark de Kamp Stadium in the Netherlands.
In a match where the Eredivisie side’s class was there for all to see, Alty produced a performance to be proud of as the Dutch side won by four goals to nil.
Alty had to survive some early pressure from the home side who settled into their rhythm first and Ollie Byrne was called into action in the opening ten minutes. He pushed an effort over the bar and that had come after Lewis Baines had managed to clear a shot off the line prior to that.
NEC were boasting some top class international talent throughout their starting line-up with their captain and Danish international Lasse Schone pulling the strings in midfield.
Elayis Tavsan and Lars Larsen were constant threats out wide for the hosts and it was that danger which led to the opening goal as a corner was earned after 14 minutes.
A whipped in ball saw midfielder Dirk Proper produce a near-post header which gave the Alty defence no chance to put the hosts ahead.
Midway through the half, NEC doubled their advantage after more good play down the left and Larsen’s driven cross was inadvertently sliced into the net by Lewis Baines.
The high press from the home side was a real standout feature in their play giving the Robins very little time on the ball and denying us space to build up play.
There were positive moments for Alty when they were not defending in the first half as Justin Donawa had a shot blocked and there were some bright passages of play with Matty Kosylo at the centre at much of the good work going forward.
In truth, the majority of the half was spent on the backfoot however as the Eredivisie’s outfit’s quality was clear for all to see as they went into the half-time break two goals to the good.
Phil Parkinson made a couple of changes at half-time with Jake Cooper and Justin Amaluzor coming on for Sam Roscoe and Matty Kosylo, while NEC also adjusted their own line-up.
Substitute Sontje Hansen came on down the left and immediately caused the Alty defence problems, leading to Ollie Byrne making a good stop.
Alty suffered a blow after only five minutes of the second half as Bermudian flyer Justin Donawa went down with injury and after coming back on for a few minutes, he was subbed off with George Wilson his replacement.
Close to the hour mark, Alty broke well with Chris Conn-Clarke and his ball fed Regan Linney who had a clear sight on goal. The resulting shot went narrowly over but the effort would not have counted as the linesman’s flag had gone up.
The game was showing signs of opening up and going end-to-end which saw Alty threaten more than in the first half with Justin Amaluzor a livewire, but equally NEC were creating plenty of threat themselves with Hansen particularly dangerous.
Further changes saw Alty bring Lewis Banks, Matty Gould and Sam Roscoe back on as the Robins switched to a conventional back four and that saw the game continue to be relatively wide open.
Alty stopper Matty Gould pulled off one particularly outstanding save but there was little he could do about the third goal.
17-year-old substitute Nils Rossen intercepted a misplaced pass and it was Magnus Matsson who finished comfortably with there being little the outnumbered Alty defence could do.
With Alty pushing forward in search of a goal to give the outstanding Alty faithful something to cheer about, that did see more spaces open up at the back and NEC continued to threaten on the counter attack.
After a dangerous attack was stopped by giving away a free-kick on the edge of the box, Matsson stepped up and hit an effort, which deflected off the wall, against the bar and over for a corner as NEC ramped up the pressure once again.
The hosts were not done there as substitute Rober Gonzalez sparked another attack and after some sharp incisive one-touch passing, the ball found its way to striker Pedro Marques who finished emphatically to round off the scoring with a fourth.
There would be no more goals despite a late chance for Lewis Banks as he headed Eddy Jones’ cross over the bar but there was no shame in the final scoreline. The impressive number of travelling Alty fans could all be heard on the final whistle, as was the case the entire game, and proceedings came to an end with the hosts running out winners.
Against an extremely high-level opponent, it was a good workout for Phil Parkinson’s men who will return home tomorrow and focus will turn to Macclesfield on Wednesday night.
Until then, a huge thank you to everybody who has travelled to the Netherlands to support the lads and witness another chapter in this club’s history. And finally, our gratitude to our friends at NEC who we hope to welcome to The J.Davidson at some point.