Covid-related problems at King’s Lynn Town put paid to Altrincham’s Vanarama National League fixture with the Norfolk club at The J.Davidson Stadium tonight and brought production of the Robins Review match programme to an abrupt halt.
Director Rob Esteva’s programme notes had already been penned, however, and he has since added to them to bring you up to date on matters such as injuries and how the club swung into action to ensure a smooth switch of venues for last Saturday’s game at Sutton. Here is his updated column.
Hello and welcome to our first home game of 2021! While I sincerely wish everybody a significantly better and COVID-free year this time around, I’m actually hoping for more of the same from an Alty perspective!
And why not, when you consider the many varied obstacles placed before us on and off the pitch during 2020 and reflect on how we overcame every single one of them with a level of professionalism and dedication that speaks volumes for this club.
That unforgettable day in Boston, when we secured our return to the Vanarama National League, was obviously the pinnacle, but I look at how everybody dealt with the pandemic and the impact of it in and around the club, and it just fills me with the greatest pride and satisfaction.
How Phil, Neil and the lads have coped with all the upheaval and made the adjustment to the new division deserves the highest praise, and Saturday’s game at Sutton was another perfect example of how this club is functioning with the utmost efficiency in all departments.
First and foremost, the fixture had to be rescued from the elements after it became clear freezing temperatures and snow would likely render our pitch unplayable.
The solution was to switch it to a home game for Sutton on their artificial surface, and, as you all know, that’s what happened. But the process isn’t quite as simple as it sounds.
It involved sorting out all the logistics at incredibly short notice - liaising with Sutton and the National League, arranging travel to South London and back and numerous other administrative requirements - and that is where Paul Carter came in.
It is essential to have organisation you can depend on behind the scenes, and our secretary/general manager stepped up to the plate to ensure every last detail was securely in place to ensure the rearranged game could proceed and the team could have the opportunity to maintain their recent momentum.
And didn’t they make the most of it, capping a rousing second half of total Alty dominance with the most spectacular and dramatic of equalisers from Connor Hampson with the last meaningful kick of the game against one of the promotion favourites.
It fully justified the general view we hold right now that if we can get games played, we will. If there is a way of doing it, we’ll take it. There is a can-do mentality running right through the club at the moment, and it was there for all to see in the run-up to the Sutton game and on the day itself.
We know there will be postponements, either due to the weather or COVID, so we want to ensure we maintain momentum while we have it. In contrast to Sutton, who are an excellent team but had not played for some time, we were raring to go, and it paid off with a good, positive result.
It was nice to see some plaudits go our way in the media post-match and Matty Kosylo to be included in a combined team of the week drawn from all three Vanarama National League divisions.
About time, too, you might say, because I personally do not feel the coaching or playing staff have received the recognition they deserve in the national media, this season especially.
Perhaps if the FA Cup run that took us all the way to Fratton Park, and almost beyond, had happened this season, we would be making more headlines, but I would still have expected more recognition for some of the performances, results and goals we have produced.
Recognition of the job Phil and Neil have done, for instance, in transforming the club’s fortunes, in the wake of successive relegations, and continuing to perform wonders on our return to non-League’s top flight.
It’s no surprise that, far from being daunted by the challenge of facing big-spending, full-time clubs, Phil and Neil have relished it. If some people think we’re punching above our weight, it’s fair to say we are landing one or two blows.
Listening to Alty fans, I think it’s clear there is a widespread appreciation of the contributions we are seeing from so many areas of the team.
Tom Hannigan is proving he can make the step-up and be every bit as solid and reliable as he’s always been in Alty colours, Alistair Smith is adding genuine quality to our midfield and what a find Joel Senior is proving to be.
And what about Tony Thompson? They say keepers improve with age and maturity, and Tony is certainly a case in point. Never mind all the superlatives, a plain, simple fact will do to sum up his form - there hasn’t been a better keeper in the National League this season.
It’s just a pity that same level of appreciation and acknowledgement isn’t quite being expressed elsewhere yet.
It’s as if we have risen without trace, and that is particularly evident when listening to some away team commentaries. Their lack of knowledge about us is frightening at times, although maybe that’s not such a bad thing. If that suggests opponents may be underestimating us or failing to prepare adequately, then perhaps we will keep surprising them.
On a related note, there are two familiar faces that are getting the recognition they deserve. It was excellent to see Duncan Watmore and Owen Dale win individual monthly awards for their performances in December. Both have been on fire of late, and long may it continue!
And back to your Robins. With the games coming thick and fast, it’s the Buildbase FA Trophy next up at Havant & Waterlooville on Saturday, and let’s hope the Sutton game will have acted as ideal preparation for playing on the Hampshire side’s artificial surface.
As a further bonus, after travelling to the likes of Warrington and Nantwich in the search for facilities, the lads are currently able to train in Altrincham, and we are finally getting close to having a fully-fit squad.
Tom Hannigan has a niggle that will hopefully resolve itself soon and Sean Williams is continuing his rehab, while Fisayo Adarabioyo is edging closer to fitness. Other than that, the squad is in good shape.
Thanks for sticking with us through these difficult times and showing us such loyalty, and as has been said before but bears repeating, we can’t wait to welcome you all back to The J.Davidson Stadium. Let’s hope it’s not too long now.