ALTRINCHAM host Kidderminster Harriers at The J.Davidson Stadium on Saturday afternoon (3pm) as the Robins look to stop Harriers from going level on points with Phil Parkinson's men in the race for a play-off place.
Despite a good run of form in recent weeks, the Robins find themselves occupying the final play-off place in the National League North table in 7th, with Kidderminster just behind in 8th, so there is certainly plenty to play for in this one as the end of the season draws closer.
The Robins do have two games in hand on Mark Yates' men but recent weeks have again been a reminder that there are no easy games in this division, so the last thing boss Phil Parkinson will want is to hand Kidderminster some momentum with victory at the weekend.
Harriers have been fairly inconsistent all season with their form since the New Year including six wins and seven losses in 14 games in the league, so they are a very unpredictable side, something which in large part may be down to the fact that they are a very young team for the most part.
Former Cheltenham and Crawley Town manager Yates arrived at Aggborough in January for a second spell in charge at the club, and with the play-offs now in sight for his team, the Robins will need to be on their game if they are to come away with a big three points.
Last time out:
The two sides met in a very entertaining fixture back in August, with Kidderminster coming away with a 3-2 victory at Aggborough.
Harriers took the lead in the very first minute of the game through attacking midfielder Ed Williams but John Johnston managed to level things for the Robins midway through the half.
However, Dan Bradley and Ashley Chambers struck before half time to give Kidderminster a commanding 3-1 lead and despite Max Harrop pulling one back not long after the restart, Harriers held on for the three points.
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Under 12s £1
Through The Years by Howard Watts & Mike Garnett – 30th March
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Altrincham secured another valuable three points on Saturday as they continued their push for a play-off position with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Kidderminster Harriers.
Goals from James Jones and Jordan Hulme were enough to overcome a difficult Kidderminster side, who now sit six points behind Alty, having played two games more.
After being out of action for three long weeks, Altrincham were finally back underway in the Vanarama National League North, playing the first of eight games to be negotiated over the next 29 days.
Phil Parkinson named an unchanged starting 11 to the side that travelled to Bootham Cresent and completed a notable double over York City by beating them 1-0 earlier this month.
Altrincham started well, applying the pressure early on and threatening a breakthrough in only the fifth minute. John Johnston did well on the right-hand side, using his pace down the wing to deliver a ball into Hulme, which was just a matter of inches too far in front of the striker.
Just six minutes later, the Robins opened the scoring, with a header by Jones from a left-wing corner. Kidderminster goalkeeper Brandon Hall missed his attempted punch, as the ball sailed over him, and Jones was perfectly placed at the back post to nod home.
The goal initiated an immediate response from the away side, who almost brought the game level just a few minutes later. A Kidderminster corner wasn’t dealt with, and the ball came to Fraser Horsfall, whose thunderous strike from the edge of the box rattled the crossbar before being scrambled clear.
Perhaps Horsfall’s effort was a warning sign for Alty, who created a number of chances in response to their narrow escape and doubled their lead in the 19th minute following a brilliant Hulme goal.
Andy White played a pass in to Hulme, who did well, using his strength, to turn just inside the area and, despite being sandwiched between two defenders, poke the ball over the top of Hall, who backtracked frantically but couldn't stop it nestling in the back of the net. Harriers skipper Ryan Johnson stretched for the ball at the same time as Hulme, but the Alty striker looked to have got the final touch.
Alty had another chance to increase their lead shortly after, with Yusifu Ceesay utilising his blistering pace down the left wing and firing a low cross across the opposition box to Johnston, who struck it first time but couldn’t guide it on target.
Despite a two-goal buffer, the game was not over by any means, as Kidderminster were only too keen point out. The visitors came agonisingly close again in the 35th minute but were unable to find a way through, thanks to a fantastic piece of defending by White. Joe Ironside’s header looked destined for the back of the net, until White acrobatically nodded it against the underside of the bar at full stretch, the ball subsequently being hacked to safety.
But it wasn’t long before Kidderminster did get their, perhaps, deserved goal in the 39th minute. Liam McAlinden met a Joel Taylor cross with a header back across the face of the goal to Ironside, who managed, somehow, to poke the ball into the back of the net, following some confusion in the six-yard box.
Kidderminster started to gain momentum and confidence in the final minutes of the first half and were denied a chance to bring the game level after some brilliant goalkeeping from Tony Thompson. Taylor, who had been causing problems down the left wing all afternoon, played the ball into the box, trying to find McAlinden but Thompson bravely rushed off his line and smothered the ball before a shot could be taken.
The second half started slowly, with neither side creating much. Alty’s first chance came in the form of a Johnston curled effort, using the outside of his foot, but the shot was cleared by Harry Flowers.
Alty came close again in the 63rd minute, after Ceesay did well to hold off the attention of close markers and play the ball to Sean Williams, who struck a shot just wide of the post.
Kidderminster’s first notable effort of the second half came in the 73rd minute. A corner was cleared, but only as far as Ashley Chambers, who tried to guide the ball into the top right corner, but his shot went wide.
The Harriers came close again in the 82nd minute, through a rather bizarre free-kick routine. Declan Weeks walked over to Alty’s wall, deceiving the players, and the free-kick was taken quickly amongst Alty’s confusion, but Kane Richards’ effort was well saved by Thompson.
It was all Kidderminster in the dying embers of the game, and they went close again in the 89th minute after Richards blazed the ball over the crossbar from a chance that looked easier to convert than miss. Chambers drilled a wonderful ball to Williams, who put in an equally-impressive low cross to Richards, who somehow ballooned it over from just five yards out.
Despite the late pressure, the Altrincham defence dealt with the danger well and a solid team performance saw the game out until the end, securing a huge three points for the Robins.
Altrincham are back in action next Saturday as they travel to North Street, where they look to gain another three points against Alfreton Town and extend their brilliant run of form.