Over two weeks have passed since Altrincham last kicked a ball in anger. COVID-19 stopped our 2020/21 train while it was still getting up to full speed, but today’s Emirates FA Cup 4th Round Qualifier sees us return to action, again.
Alty’s scheduled home games against Solihull Moors and Bromley were called off after members of the first-team squad tested positive for COVID, resulting in a period of isolation which ends today. Our gratitude, therefore, goes to AFC Fylde for their cooperation and sportsmanship in agreeing to move the cup tie, meaning a large portion of our squad can now compete this afternoon.
The Robins have been busy over the isolation period, adding two new signings to the squad in forward Fisayo Adarabioyo, who joins us from Curzon Ashton, and experienced midfielder Darren Potter, who arrived on a short term deal this past Thursday. Fisayo cannot feature this afternoon, he is cup tied having played for Curzon Ashton in an earlier round.
Today’s hosts have also had some time away from the pitch, they haven’t played since their 3rd Round Qualifier at Farsley on 13th October. Like Alty, they have also been busy in the transfer department adding defender Reagan Ogle to their squad.
Of course, the two sides have met very recently. It seems like an age since we were at Mill Farm for our penultimate pre-season friendly but it was in fact less than a month ago - the sides drew 2-2 back on 26th September. First half goals from Nick Haughton and Kurt Willoughby were cancelled out by a much improved second half performance, Alty’s goals coming from Matty Kosylo and Max Clayton.
In news that rocked Non-League, it was announced just six days later that Jordan Hulme would be joining AFC Fylde. It’s an obvious and interesting dynamic within today’s cup tie, and the Alty defence will be very keen to ensure that the former Robins talisman does not open his Coasters account this afternoon.
Looking at Fylde’s start to the season it is clear that Nick Haughton is the one to watch out for today. A player of real quality, he has started the season in blistering form and his goals are a huge factor in their flawless, P4 W4 start.
Back to Alty, who’s last performance away at Eastleigh was a very encouraging one. Yusifu Ceesay grabbed a deserved opener midway through the first half but the Spitfires equalised on the stroke of half-time. It was a positive step in the right direction following the defeat at Notts County, and the plan is to build on that despite the delay in getting back out on a pitch.
Remarkably, today is our seventh consecutive away draw in the Emirates FA Cup. That didn’t stop us enjoying a fantastic run last year, wins against Chester, Halesowen and Southport resulted in a First Round trip to York City. A Thompson penalty save kept Alty in that, before Tom Peers scored the 2019/20 goal of the season capping off a swift and incisive counter attack.
🤳 FROM THE STANDS 🤳— Emirates FA Cup (@EmiratesFACup) December 7, 2019
Although the result didn't go their way, THIS is how the travelling @altrinchamfc fans reacted to scoring an #EmiratesFACup equaliser in the 84th minute 🙌 pic.twitter.com/bMhbMGNZYe
Off to Fratton Park we went for our first Second Round appearance since the 2015 heartache in Colchester. Josh Hancock’s late penalty equaliser will live long in the memory of all Robins who were there on the Milton End, and a replay would have been most deserved for Alty who took the game to League One opposition throughout the tie. Brett Pittman’s last gasp winner was the cruel reality of football, but the Robins left the pitch to a standing ovation from the home supporters.
So, it all starts again today.
Another run like last season’s would be fantastic - but fans are the lifeblood of any cup run and there will never be a substitute for sharing those experiences together. We hope you can generate a bit of a cup atmosphere wherever you’re watching, and hopefully the boys can write yet another chapter into the illustrious book of Altrincham FA Cup history.
Today's game is being streamed live by AFC Fylde and you can access the stream here. Tickets cost £7.99
You can listen to live commentary of today's game at Mill Farm on Radio Robins, sponsored by Ashley Mowers Garden Machinery, and the broadcast starts at 12.45pm
The match commentary sponsor is 'The Non-League Lounge.'
The commentary team is Ian Wilkinson, Andy Ainsworth & Brian Flynn
You can listen to Radio Robins in any of the following ways:
1) By visiting our Match Centre on the club website
2) Download and install the Mixlr app on Android devices from the Google Play Store - start the app and search for 'Radio Robins'.
3) Download and install the Mixlr app on Apple devices from the Apple Store - start the app and search for 'Radio Robins'.
5) There is also a temporary Radio Robins WIX website at https://rr5977.wixsite.com/radiorobins
Jordan Hulme has always had a sense of occasion and sense of timing, and they combined to deadly effect to send Altrincham spinning towards a fourth qualifying round defeat in the Emirates FA Cup at Mill Farm.
Still looking for his first goal in AFC Fylde colours, the former Robins favourite chose football's most famous competition and his old club for putting matters right, as the Coasters shaded the tightest of encounters.
Cashing in on a defensive mix-up, Hulme broke the deadlock in the 43rd minute with a close-range finish, realising fears that must have been harboured by every single Alty fan ever since the draw was first made.
The tie looked to have been settled when the home side doubled their lead in the 54th minute, but, to their credit, a spirited Alty forced their way back into it with a superbly-worked goal, finished off by Tom Peers, on the hour.
In bright breezy conditions, one-time Liverpool midfielder Darren Potter was given an instant debut, just a couple of days after signing a short-term deal with the Robins, in a central role alongside skipper Jake Moult.
The wind was clearly going to be a factor, judging by a couple of early Fylde through balls that were helped on their way by the elements and sailed harmlessly out for a goal-kick.
Even so, both sides wasted no time showing their attacking intent and both were rueing near-misses in a lively opening quarter-of-an-hour.
Alty were first to threaten, courtesy of a misplaced pass across the edge of his own area by Fylde centre-back Alex Whitmore that was quickly seized on by Matty Kosylo and Josh Hancock. It was Hancock who took responsibility for trying to punish the error, but his rising drive had a fraction too much elevation on it and just cleared the bar.
Worryingly for Alty, as mentioned, Hulme went in to the tie still looking to open his account for his new club. What odds that opening deposit would be against his old club?
Not short enough, as soon became apparent, and he looked in the mood to take it out on his former team-mates as early as the fourth minute, with a flash of vintage Hulme trickery that so nearly produced the game’s first goal.
Receiving the ball with his back to goal, the former Alty striker rode a challenge from Toby Mullarkey and brilliantly turned his man to open up space for a shot that smacked against the right-hand post and bounced away to safety.
Alty reacted by forcing a corner that Kosylo played short to Shaun Densmore, who whipped in a cross that cleared everyone on the edge of a crowded six-yard area but found Moult, lurking beyond the far post.
The Alty midfielder’s control earned him a shooting opportunity, but the angle was against him, and his effort drifted wide of the other post.
Fylde lost skipper Nathan Pond to an injury in the 19th minute and could easily have lost right-back Luke Burke to a red card three minutes later after a scything challenge on Connor Hampson that left the full-back needing treatment.
Referee Mr.Dicicco consulted his nearby linesman and thought long and hard before settling for a yellow card, much to Burke’s relief.
New boy Potter had been growing into the game and showing glimpses of his undoubted pedigree, not least with an eye-catching turn that completely wrong-footed a close marker near the centre-circle, but he blotted his copybook with a costly lapse in the 43rd minute.
The danger looked to have passed after livewire frontrunner Nick Haughton received a pass from Luke Burgess and drove a shot inches wide, with Tony Thompson at full stretch.
But when Thompson rolled the resulting goal-kick towards Potter on the edge of the area, the vastly-experienced midfielder appeared to be caught unawares and quickly found himself under pressure.
As the ball squirmed free, Hulme pounced on it and, with only Thompson to beat, made no mistake with an unerring finish into the bottom corner.
It was tough on Alty after a wholly-committed first-half performance, and they may well have felt aggrieved after doing more than enough to have gone in on level terms.
There was no sign of feeling sorry for themselves, though, as they started the second half brightly and carved out the first opening, a couple of minutes in, Moult meeting Kosylo’s deep free-kick with a first-time sidefoot volley that cleared the bar.
The last thing Alty could afford to do was slip further behind, but that’s the fate that befell them in the 54th minute.
Right-back Burke didn’t appear to have anyone in mind when he clipped a ball forward with his left foot, but it fell obligingly for Ben Tollitt to latch on to and fire past Thompson.
It needed a swift response from Alty, and they duly came up with one, as Kosylo began to make his mark against his old club.
A weaving run by the little winger took him past one challenge after another into the Fylde area, and when his eventual shot bobbled narrowly wide, claims he had been clipped as he raised his boot to execute it fell on deaf ears.
Alty kept the pressure on, and when more great play from Kosylo on the hour gave Hampson the chance to get to the bye-line and cross low, Peers was on hand to convert at the near post and reduce the arrears.
Phil Parkinson's side were giving it everything, in their quest for an equaliser and penalties, though Fylde were proving a tough nut to crack.
Moult tested Chris Neal from distance in the 75th minute, after good approach work from Densmore and Hancock, and Alty threatened again soon after with a Hancock free-kick that was safely fielded by the Fylde keeper.
So it went on, right into five minutes of added time, but it wasn’t to be for Alty, as a second goal - and possible route into the first round proper - eluded them on what was still an encouraging return to action after their Covid-enforced lay-off.