Report by John Edwards
Picture by David Munro
Altrincham 2 (Newby 13, Colclough 77) Eastleigh 1 (Whitehall 90)
Attendance 1,683 (30 away)
Goals from Elliot Newby and Ryan Colclough proved decisive as Altrincham continued their recent revival with a thoroughly deserved victory that lifted them to 16th in the Vanarama National League table, level on points with the two teams immediately above them.
What a signing Newby has been, a firm favourite with Alty fans after his previous loan spell and firmer than after he made it three goals in as many games since arriving on a temporary deal from Stockport County.
As for Colclough, the supply of superlatives has almost been exhausted. Suffice to say, when Alty needed the comfort of a two-goal cushion, he delivered with an unerring finish to put the Robins on course for a return of seven points from their last three games.
Eastleigh may have looked a side who have struggled on the road this season, but that's not to take anything away from an Alty performance that exuded authority and merited a far more convincing margin of victory.
With rain driving into their faces as they attacked the away end in the first half, it took a while for Alty to find any rhythm, but they did manage to fashion a half-chance in the ninth minute.
A slick left-wing move ended with Chris Conn-Clarke teeing up Colclough, who turned and shot in one movement near the penalty spot, only for his effort to be deflected into keeper Joe McDonnell’s arms.
Conn-Clarke tried a shot at goal himself three minutes later but dragged it wide from the edge of the area.
A breakthrough seemed close at hand, though, and it was no surprise that Newby was the man to provide it, given his recent prolific form.
When Colclough advanced towards the left edge of the area, a couple of backtracking defenders must have been bracing themselves for a sudden drop of the shoulder and burst of pace by the Alty winger to open up a shooting opportunity.
But the element of surprise is one of many qualities that make Colclough such a handful, and instead of opting for the obvious, he released the ball to the overlapping Eddy Jones, who cut it back for Newby to control and expertly slide past McDonnell.
It was just the start Alty were hoping for, and there could be no complaints from Eastleigh after the way the Robins had settled into their stride and established a grip on the game.
Indeed, while Ollie Byrne had been untroubled in the opening exchanges, his opposite number had been fully occupied, organising his back line and trying to keep Alty at bay.
It was noticeable that, with two giants at the heart of the Spitfires' defence, Alty were opting to take short corners more often than not, and, from one, Conn-Clarke wriggled his way past two challenges on the bye-line before his attempt to pick out a team-mate was blocked.
The pattern of Alty dominating play continued with two near-misses in quick succession midway through the half.
First, Newby forced his way to the bye-line on the right in the 23rd minute, and when his cutback eluded Connor Jennings, Eddy Jones steamed in to hammer a first-time right-foot shot narrowly wide.
Seconds later, another right-flank move involving Newby ended with Toby Mullarkey’s cross being controlled by Jennings, who set up Conn-Clarke for a goalbound shot that was blocked.
It was the 38th minute before Eastleigh shaped even a semblance of a chance, Tristan Abrahams squaring the ball to Charlie Carter, who sidefooted over from a good position.
Despite having little to do for the majority of the first half, Byrne reacted brilliantly when he was called into action in the 45th minute, following a free-kick from the left.
Carter met it first time with an effort that was heading for the far corner, until Byrne sprang to his right and had the presence of mind to palm it away from the danger area with the strongest of right hands.
Alty remained on the front foot at the start of the second half and threatened from another short corner routine in the 53rd minute.
After the ball was touched to him, Conn-Clarke tricked his way past a close marker and whipped in a cross that was only half-cleared to Mullarkey, whose first-time volley flew narrowly over.
Another low cross delivered with pace, this time by Colclough from the right, caused more consternation in the Eastleigh defence in the 59th minute.
The visitors couldn’t clear their lines, and when the ball fell for Jennings, he fired narrowly wide from a great position. The on-loan Stockport County striker argued in vain that his shot had been deflected off-target and should have resulted in a corner, but he must have sensed a golden opportunity to open his Alty account had slipped from his grasp.
The lead began to reflect Alty's dominance in the 77th minute when a spell of possession on the right involving Mullarkey, Eddy Jones and Newby ended with the on-loan Stockport winger cutting in and picking out Colclough, who finished unerringly with a crisp low drive just inside the right-hand post.
The Robins continued to look entirely untroubled, but there was some anxiety when danger man Danny Whitehall headed home a 90th-minute cross to reduce the arrears.
Byrne was called upon to deny Vince Harper with an excellent save in added time, but, in truth, anything other than a home victory would have been a travesty of justice on an afternoon when Phil Parkinson’s side looked every inch a National League side of some repute.