Photos: Luke Reynolds Photography
Altrincham advanced to their first Cheshire Senior Cup Final in over a decade with a professional 4-0 win over Northern Premier League Division One West side Runcorn Linnets.
Phil Parkinson named a strong XI of first team names, all keen to respond to Saturday's excruciating FA Trophy Semi-Final defeat. The XI included Manchester United loanee Sonny Aljofree for his Altrincham debut.
The determination to put any lingering doubt to bed looked evident in the opening period of play. Altrincham controlled the ball well and made Linnets work very hard to contain their customary passing and movement across the edge of the opposition box.
A breakthrough was found on the 15th minute. Aaron Bennett's short corner was passed to Ben Pringle, who curled a delightful deep ball to the back post for James Jones to hit home.
But for a couple of moments where Altrincham's lack of care with the ball allowed Runcorn to break away on a hopeful counter, the Robins' dominance of the first half continued and it was Regan Linney who added a second on the 33rd minute. With time to line up the effort, his sweet strike from the edge of the box seemed destined for the top corner from the moment it left his boot.
HT: Runcorn Linnets 0-2 Altrincham
The second half, for the most part, was a quieter occasion with Altrincham seemingly quite content to conserve their energy levels by maintaining possession and waiting for the killer openings.
Open up it did, with Luke Burgess shooting just wide following great work from Linney to weave his way into the box, and Bennett shooting into the arms of Runcorn's Man of the Match, Danny Taberner moments later.
It was around this period of the game that the hosts rallied and certainly gave as good as they got. While never overly troubled, Altrincham had to work to defend their two goal advantage in a game that become more attack-for-attack than the total domination of the first half.
There was a sporting moment on the 66th minute when former Robin, Sam Heathcote, was substituted to a warm reception from the strong Altrincham contingent in attendance. At a guess, there was around 200 in the crowd of 717.
The final ten minutes of the game saw Altrincham finish in style.
Linney added his second of the evening in the 83rd minute, a typically cool and emphatic finish when one-on-one with Runcorn's 18-year-old, substitute goalkeeper Josh Roberts - brought on to make his debut on 81'.
The Robins saved the best for last, however. Bennett put the icing on the cake with an exquisite lob from just inside the Runcorn half, leaving Roberts stranded to get back in time. One to learn from for the young 'keeper.
A good evening's work for Phil Parkinson's side who seemingly came through the game without any bumps or bruises to take into Good Friday's trip to Oldham Athletic.
The date, venue and opponent for the Final are all still TBC. Congleton will host Crewe Alexandra U23 on Monday 17 April 2023 (7.45pm), at The Cleric Stadium.
FT: Runcorn Linnets 0-4 Altrincham
XI: Gould; Welch-Hayes, J. Jones (c), Aljofree, Perritt; Osborne, Burgess (70'); Sinclair, Bennett, Pringle; Linney
Subs: Byrne, Marriott, Lundstram, Kaja (70')
ATT: 717 (away attendance was not totalled)