Report by John Edwards
Picture by Jonathan Moore
Altrincham 2 Aldershot Town 1
Two goals of the highest quality from Chris Conn-Clarke and Alex Newby reinforced Altrincham's hold on a play-off place as they made light of torrential rain and a spirited Aldershot side to secure a fourth straight Vanarama National League win at The J.Davidson Stadium.
Conn-Clarke put his side ahead with a typically-audacious solo effort midway through the first half, and though Aldershot equalised with a penalty in the 71st minute, the Robins roared back to claim the points with a goal that was brilliantly crafted by man-of-the-match Justin Amaluzor and Lewis Banks and expertly finished off by Newby.
That's four in a row for Phil Parkinson's in-form team, whose grip on sixth place is firmer than ever after they opened up a four-point lead over the team immediately below them, Eastleigh. Clearly, they are going places - the Football League, dare anyone suggest?
This was never anything like as much a formality as Alty's previous home outing, a 6-1 dismantling of Ebbsfleet United, but it was never likely to be, given Aldershot's attacking prowess.
There were times Alty were put to the test at the back, but it was hugely reassuring to see how resolutely they stood up to it and dealt with virtually everything the Shots threw at them.
With danger man Josh Stokes ghosting into areas where he could cause most damage and going close a couple of times early on, the Robins knew they would have their work cut out extending their winning run to four games.
But an evenly-contested opening 20 minutes or so began to tilt Alty's way when Conn-Clarke seized possession on the left just inside the Aldershot half in the 24th minute.
After darting past a challenge and advancing towards the edge of the area, the Alty attacker looked to be shaping himself for a curled effort towards the top right corner, only to suddenly drill a low shot into the bottom left of the net beyond the reach of diving keeper Jordi Van Stappershoef.
Aldershot almost equalised within two minutes, when Ryan Glover let fly with a fierce shot from the left that flew past Ethan Ross and crashed against the far post.
It took some excellent covering by Elliot Osborne to deny Haji Mnoga a shooting opportunity on the half-hour, but, with Dior Angus really coming into his own with his lightning acceleration and direct running, the Robins finished the half strongly.
The Alty forward seemed to have done all the hard work after cutting in brilliantly from the right in the 33rd minute, only to over-run the ball fractionally and see Newby step in and hit a shot that was blocked and scrambled clear.
He combined with Osborne in the 44th minute before rifling a shot narrowly over the angle of bar and post, and when he burst clear down the right in first-half stoppage time and cut the ball back, Amaluzor met it with a shot that went inches wide of the near post.
A block by Jake Cooper to keep out a close-range effort from Glover in the 47th minute was typical of an assured performance by the Alty centre-back alongside the equally-impressive Lewis Baines at the heart of a rock-solid Robins rearguard.
Alty went in search of a second goal that would provide them with a more comfortable cushion and went close as Conn-Clarke began to turn on the style, stinging the keeper's hands and then nutmegging Cian Harries before having another long-range effort saved, and Amaluzor threatened with a near-post shot that was turned round for a corner.
It was all-square in the 71st minute as Mnoga was impeded by Osborne after accelerating into the Alty area, and Harries stepped forward to drill the spot-kick past penalty expert Ross, who had saved three times from 12 yards previously but could do nothing about this one.
How would Alty respond? Could they absorb the undoubted blow of being pegged back and go in front for a second time, an achievement that would say plenty about their character and reinforce a growing belief that their presence in the play-off places is no flash in the pan?
The answer was in the affirmative as, just six minutes after surrendering the initiative, they grabbed it back with what proved to be a winning goal.
A superb right-flank combination between Amaluzor and Banks ended with the latter crossing low to Newby, who steadied himself for a moment before drilling a low shot unerringly into the bottom left corner, to the delight of a packed Golf Road terrace behind the goal.
The task then was to hold out for the remaining few minutes, but, if anything, it was Alty who looked likelier to score again, as Amaluzor so nearly set up Conn-Clarke after breaking clear down the left and then, in added time, hit a close-range shot straight at Stappershoef when he had only the keeper to beat.
Never mind, Justin, you more than played your part in a hard-earned win that demonstrated how, when the need is to dig deep, Alty have all the tools they require. Next up, it's Gateshead away on Saturday. Fourth against sixth, who'd have thought it? Bring it on.
Altrincham - Ross; Banks (J.Jones 82), Cooper, Baines, E.Jones; Osborne, Marriott; Amaluzor, Conn-Clarke, Newby; Angus (Donawa 82). Subs not used - Roscoe, German, Gould.
Booked - Newby, Cooper.
Attendance - 1,274 (117 away)