Report by John Edwards
Picture by Jonathan Moore
Altrincham 6 Ebbsfleet United 1
One of the most exhilarating first-half performances of recent times provided the platform for a thumping Vanarama National League victory as Altrincham returned to winning ways in stunning fashion at The J.Davidson Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
For 45 minutes, the Robins were simply irresistible as they swept the visitors aside with a brand of slick attacking football that has seldom been bettered in Phil Parkinson's highly-successful six-year reign as manager.
When the referee's whistle signalled half-time and a merciful release for a tortured Ebbsfleet side, the only surprise was that the rampant Robins hadn't made their way off with an even more convincing advantage than the 4-1 scoreline.
To their great credit, the Kent side took it on the chin and came storming back in the second half with a belief and conviction that they could somehow overturn such an emphatic deficit.
But Alty keeper Ethan Ross had other ideas, pulling off a brilliant penalty save in the 81st minute, and the Robins put the seal on a memorable afternoon with goals number five and six in added time.
In bright late-September sunshine, Alty almost went ahead in the opening minute. Unsurprisingly, Chris Conn-Clarke was the architect, playing a one-two with Justin Amaluzor on the right and brilliantly sidestepping a challenge before rifling a shot no more than a foot high and wide of the far angle.
If that was a promising start for the Robins, it got even better just four minutes later as they deservedly took the lead.
What a moment it was for Alex Newby, too, as he demonstrated that anything twin brother Elliot could do in Alty colours, he could accomplish just as well.
Again, Conn-Clarke was the instigator with a cross from the right that gained extra elevation after skimming off a defender's head and reached Newby at the far post for a close-range header that gave keeper Mark Cousins no chance.
Ebbsfleet were on the rack, and Alty stretched it a notch or two more by threatening again in the ninth minute. There was plenty to admire about the approach play as Newby advanced down the left before linking up with Eddy Jones, who passed inside to Elliot Osborne.
When the ball was switched further infield to Isaac Marriott, the Alty skipper relayed it on to Amaluzor, who drilled a shot that Cousins tipped round the post at full stretch.
The message from Phil Parkinson in recent weeks has been for his players to make it count when they are in the ascendancy, and they did just that with a second goal in the 15th minute.
More pressure on the Ebbsfleet goal resulted in a flag-kick on the right, and Eddy Jones' inswinging delivery was met by Lewis Baines, darting towards the near post to steer a glancing header inside the opposite corner.
It was scintillating stuff from the Robins, and they continued to turn it on against an Ebbsfleet side who were being run ragged.
Never more so than when Dior Angus wriggled between two challenges on the left of the area in the 21st minute then completely wrong-footed another defender before blasting an angled shot that Cousins tipped on to the top of the post and behind for a corner.
It was footwork of the highest order by the Alty frontrunner, typical of the way the whole team were operating in the most one-sided of first halves.
Two minutes later, Alty won a free-kick in a central position 20 yards out, and it took an exceptional save from Cousins to deny Conn-Clarke as the keeper flew to his left to fingertip a superbly-taken set-piece over the bar.
Alty continued to turn the screw and should have gone further in front on the half-hour mark when Angus delivered an outstanding defence-splitting pass that sent Newby surging clear.
The on-loan winger was through one-on-one, but a second goal on his Alty debut eluded him as his shot deflected off Cousins and trickled agonisingly wide of the left post.
The visitors' reprieve did not last long, as Angus headed narrowly over in the 31st minute and, just seconds later, Justin Donawa made it 3-0.
Osborne swept a crossfield ball to the feet of Donawa, who controlled it with his first touch and buried it into the bottom left corner of the Ebbsfleet net with his second for as crisp a finish as you could possibly hope for.
All Ebbsfleet had mustered in reply was a shot on the turn by Shaq Coulthirst that whistled wide of the right post, but they were given a glimmer of hope in the 41st minute when Nathan Odokonyero stole in to score with a glancing header.
A glimmer was as far as it got, though, as Alty restored their three-goal advantage just four minutes later.
Advancing towards the edge of the area, Conn-Clarke found himself confronted by two defenders but made light of what might have proved a problem for most players by simply curling a shot round both of them and beyond the reach of Cousins.
Lewis Banks came on for Amaluzor at the start of a second half that began with Alty again on the front foot as Newby fired over in the 47th minute.
It was not quite as plain sailing for the Robins as it had been in the first 45 minutes, however, as Ebbsfleet threw everything into trying to save face and somehow force their way back into the game.
They hit the bar through Josh Wright in the 55th minute and really should have reduced the arrears on the hour when Coulthirst sliced wide, with a gaping goal at his mercy from no more than eight yards.
The response from Phil Parkinson was to introduce Joey Jones for Osborne in the 65th minute, though the Alty midfielder had just been receiving treatment for a knock and the change may possibly have been enforced.
Still Ebbsfleet poured forward in search of a second goal and it took a brilliant close-range block by Ross to thwart them in the 70th minute. It had been a remarkable turnaround in territorial dominance after an Alty-controlled first half, but the Robins finally went on the offensive in the 73rd minute with a Conn-Clarke cutback that was met by Donawa, whose goalbound shot was blocked by a defender.
Ebbsfleet had their best chance so far to make it a nervy ending for Alty when Banks was adjudged to have fouled Franklin Domi on the left of the area, but Ross reacted brilliantly to the resulting penalty, flinging himself full length to palm away Craig Tanner's kick.
That had to sap Ebbsfleet spirits, and Alty took full advantage in stoppage time, as Conn-Clarke converted an Eddy Jones centre, following a clever back-heel by Marriott, and Baines made it 6-1 with another expertly-directed header.
Altrincham - Ross; Donawa, Cooper, Baines, E.Jones; Marriott, Osborne (Joey Jones 65); Amaluzor (Banks 46), Conn-Clarke, Newby (Roscoe 82); Angus. Unused subs - Sithole, Burroughs.
Attendance - 1,683 (110 away).