Report by John Edwards
Picture by Jonathan Moore
Altrincham 2 Chesterfield 1
To the victor, the spoils. And there can seldom have been a worthier victor than an Altrincham side who dug deep and uncovered reserves of courage, conviction and character to steamroller Chesterfield and inflict a first defeat of the season on the short-odds Vanarama National League title favourites.
For 45 minutes, Paul Cook's side looked every inch the part of bookies' choice to finish top of the pile next April with an exhibition of purposeful possession football that left Alty struggling to gain any sort of foothold in the game.
By the end, they looked out on their feet after being blitzed by a second-half performance to savour from a Robins side who flatly refused to accept they were in any way inferior and went for the throat with a belief and intent that never wavered.
It brought a richly-deserved equaliser from Dior Angus in the 83rd minute, at which point any fleeting thought of settling for a hard-fought draw was banished in an instant in favour of going for the kill, an admirable mindset that brought its rewards when Alty's quicksilver striker bagged his second goal in added time.
What an afternoon, and what a dramatic way to round it off, as the final whistle sounded moments later, to the dismay of the shellshocked Spireites and delight of Alty's players and staff and Robins fans in a crowd of 2,714.
It was looking ominous when Chesterfield crowned a dominant spell by breaking the deadlock in the 16th minute, as Liam Manderville's deep corner from the left sailed beyond the far post where Spireites skipper Jamie Grimes met it with a looping header into the net.
To their credit, Alty defended resolutely enough to prevent Chesterfield's dominance of the ball leading to any further clear-cut chances, which left home fans clinging to the hope that something might bounce their team's way in the second half and possibly, just possibly, enable them to salvage a point and keep their unbeaten start to the campaign intact.
As it turned out, they did rather more than that.
With a revitalised Elliot Osborne once more pulling the strings at the heart of midfield and Justin Amaluzor troubling Chesterfield with his pace and clever change of direction, a momentum began to build that increasingly had the visitors' defence at full stretch.
Angus had just entered the fray in place of Matty Kosylo in the 65th minute when Osborne fizzed a low ball across the face of the six-yard box that just needed a final touch to draw the Robins level.
The growing sense of unease in a Chesterfield rearguard unaccustomed to being pulled one way then the other was almost palpable, as Alty kept their foot on the pedal and stepped up their quest for an equaliser.
Sam Roscoe miscued a header from close in after 72 minutes and Osborne wasn't far away with a shot from the edge of the area that flew over 10 minutes later.
Chesterfield were wilting, and their defences were breached in the 83rd minute when Angus combined brilliantly with Amaluzor before steadying himself on the edge of the area and rifling a low drive unerringly inside the left post.
Far from trying to protect a point, Alty went in search of all three with a fervour Chesterfield couldn't cope with.
Linney had a low drive superbly saved by Harry Tyrer in the 86th minute and followed up by flicking the ball on and holding off a challenge before hammering a drive into the side netting in the third minute of added time.
There was no escape for the title favourites seconds later as a bout of pressure ended with Chris Conn-Clarke's deflected shot bouncing just behind Angus, who spun on a sixpence before gleefully hammering an unstoppable volley into the roof of the net.
Cue celebrations that included every single player, including keeper Ethan Ross, who sprinted the length of the pitch to leap on to a pile of Alty bodies, followed by more of the same when the final whistle signalled a famous Robins victory moments later.
What a tribute to Mark Maddox and Barry Howard, two true greats who would both surely have beamed with pride at this Alty performance, it was that good.
Altrincham - Ross, Banks, James Jones, Roscoe, E.Jones, Amaluzor, Osborne, Marriott (Wilson 90), Kosylo (Angus 65), Conn-Clarke, Linney. Subs not used - Baines, Cooper, Joey Jones.
Attendance - 2,714 (1,047 away).