Phil Parkinson will be looking for a reaction from his side this weekend when bottom-of-the-league Barnet visit The J. Davidson Stadium.
The Robins have struggled for form since beating Maidenhead United 1-0 in front of the BT Sport cameras, suffering consecutive defeats to King’s Lynn Town, FC Halifax Town and Sutton United.
In the most recent setback, against title-chasing Sutton last Saturday, Alty found the going tough, as Robert Milsom’s seventh-minute free-kick from the edge of the area curled past the outstretched arm of Tony Thompson to open the scoring.
The U’s doubled their lead just past the half-hour mark when Donovan Wilson, on loan from NL South side Bath City, collected Isaac Olaofe’s pass before slotting the ball into the bottom right corner of the net.
Tobi Sho-Silva put the game beyond the Robins’ reach in the 55th minute, finding himself in the right place at the right time to connect with a ball into the box, before finishing smartly beyond the Alty shot-stopper.
Only seven minutes later, a defensive mistake from Parkinson’s side led to United’s fourth goal, as Wilson intercepted a ball from Thompson before stroking it into an empty net.
Chances were few and far between for the hosts as they fell to a disappointing 4-0 defeat against a side who highlighted why they are figuring so prominently in the title race.
Following that result, the Robins are now 17thin the Vanarama National League table, five places above Barnet, but with a whopping 23-point gap between themselves and the struggling Bees.
This will be the second meeting between the sides this season, with Josh Hancock scoring right at the death to secure Alty all three points in a 2-1 win at the Hive. Our hosts had taken the lead in the 11th minute through JJ Hooper, but Matty Kosylo’s strike from just outside the area levelled the score, after the ball deflected in off the inside of the post.
With the game heading for a draw, a smart pass from Andy White deep into added time found Hancock on the edge of the six-yard box, and the Robins’ top scorer forced his shot home, despite the ‘keeper getting a touch to the ball.
It has been a season to forget for our opponents on Saturday, with the Bees at the foot of the Vanarama National League table. Of their 32 games, they have only been able to secure four wins, drawing six and losing 22. However, with the threat of relegation off the table, the London-based club will live to fight another day.
Their form has improved in recent weeks, and they are now enjoying their best run of the season, beating Aldershot Town and securing draws against Maidenhead United and Boreham Wood. In their last outing against the Wood, Barnet were put under heavy pressure as Matt Rhead, Kabongo Tshimanga, and Corey Whitely all had golden opportunities to score. However, the Bees’ defence held strong as they kept their second clean sheet in three games.
Undoubtedly putting plans in place for next season, this weekend’s visitors will be wanting to end this year as strongly as possible and, under a new management team of Simon Bassey and Dave Anderson, there is plenty of optimism for the 2021/22 campaign.
Taking over from Tim Flowers, who spent only three months in charge at the Hive after the departure of Peter Beadle, Bassey’s impact on the team has been evident to see. Initially appointed as first-team coach, the 45-year-old has yet to taste defeat in his new role, drawing twice and winning once.
A man who enjoyed an extensive playing career in non-League football, Bassey featured for the likes of Carshalton Athletic, Aldershot Town, Dulwich Hamlet, Crawley Town, and Tooting & Mitcham United before the midfielder hung up his boots because of injury in 2004 while playing for AFC Wimbledon.
Immediately after that, he took up a coaching role at the Dons, even acting as caretaker-manager on two occasions before the appointment of Neal Ardley in 2012.
When Ardley departed the club in November 2018, Bassey was once again called up to take temporary charge, but he ended up leaving AFC Wimbledon at the end of that season.
After a short period away from management, he took over at Barnet and quickly turned them into a much more competitive side.
Bassey has not been afraid of making changes, utilising the loan market to bolster his side with young and exciting players. Adding to his experienced squad, the likes of Sam Skeffington and Sam Beard have joined Barnet on loan from Millwall and Dorking Wanderers respectively.
A win for Altrincham could see them climb above Yeovil Town, Solihull Moors, and Dagenham & Redbridge into 14th. However, a win for Barnet could take them to within seven points of King’s Lynn Town in 21st, depending on results elsewhere.
Last five league games
Altrincham: WWLLL (F4 A7)
Barnet: LLDWD (F4 A8)
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*Ace Ali .. Alistair Smith heads Alty 2-0 in front after being set up by Ritchie Sutton. Picture by Michael Ripley.
The scoring drought came to an end but the defensive frailties remained, as Altrincham contrived to throw away a 2-0 lead and were sunk by two goals in the final few minutes to end up empty-handed against lowly Barnet at The J.Davidson Stadium.
The Robins looked well set for a welcome victory, after three straight defeats, when Ryan Colclough and Alistair Smith put them in command with a goal apiece inside the opening 16 minutes.
An opportunist strike by Colclough from long range was Alty's first goal for 301 minutes, and when Smith headed home to double the lead soon after, it looked like an overdue return to winning ways for the Robins.
But a giveaway goal just before half-time planted a seed of doubt in Alty minds, and it germinated into reality in the dying moments after another defensive lapse handed Barnet an equaliser that was followed by a winner seconds later.
On a warm, sunny afternoon, there was an immediate debut for new loan signing Connor Kirby from Harrogate in a midfield bolstered by the return of a fit-again Smith, while Nyal Bell made a rare start up front.
Barnet started brightly, befitting a side whose fortunes have taken a turn for the better of late, but they were rocked back on their heels by a typical piece of enterprise by Colclough in only the fourth minute.
When a free-kick into the Barnet area was only half-cleared, Dan Mooney seized on it and engineered enough space to curl a shot that looked bound for the top corner until Sam Beard's straining forehead intervened and propelled it to safety.
Or so it appeared, though whether anything can be considered safe with the ball at Colclough's feet 30 yards from goal is increasingly becoming a matter of conjecture.
It was anything but for Barnet on this occasion, as the Alty danger man took one touch before taking everyone by surprise - not least Bees keeper Aymen Azaze - by whipping a right-foot shot inside the left-hand post.
After so long without a goal, it was perhaps no surprise two should come along at once, as Alty doubled their lead just 12 minutes later.
Colclough , such a handful for National league defences, was heavily involved again, drawing a foul nearly 30 yards out and picking himself up to test Azaze with a firmly-struck free-kick that the keeper palmed away at full stretch.
Once more, Alty were alive to the possibilities of punishing their opponents at the second attempt, and once more they succeeded, as Ritchie Sutton retrieved the ball from the left of the six-yard box and chipped a cross that Smith headed home from close range.
It was a dream start for Alty after their recent travails, but they almost gifted the visitors a way back into it in the 27th minute when Tony Thompson tried an ill-advised manoeuvre with the ball at his feet and a forward in front of him, only to slip at the worst possible moment.
Fortunately for the Alty keeper, Barnet failed to capitalise, but it was a timely warning the Robins could ill-afford to take liberties with a side belying their lowly position under Simon Bassey.
Barnet had looked sharp, but, in a welcome change for those looking on and following events on the live stream or Radio Robins, it was Phil Parkinson's side who were proving the more clinical, making it count when it mattered on two occasions in an otherwise relatively even first half.
They nearly made it three in the 43rd minute, when Colclough again demonstrated his prowess for placing the opposition goal in peril from almost any distance with a snap-shot from 30 yards that needed a diving save from Azaze to turn it round for a corner.
Again, the danger wasn't over, as Colclough picked out Kirby on the edge of the D with his flag-kick. Resisting the temptation to try an audacious first-time volley, Kirby floated a chip towards Mooney on the right of the area, and when the winger swivelled and hit a left-foot shot, it beat the diving Azaze but curled fractionally wide of the far post.
Suddenly, from being so close to a 3-0 half-time lead, the Robins went in just one goal to the good after a mix-up between Thompson and Toby Mullarkey.
Thompson had to shoulder the brunt of the blame, needlessly racing from his line, rather than waiting for Mullarkey to head the ball back to him, resulting in the two players colliding with each other and leaving Courtney Baker-Richardson the simple task of scoring in an unguarded net.
As with the first half, Barnet started the second 45 minutes on the front foot and were first to threaten when substitute Michael Petrasso dragged a shot wide from just inside the area.
That momentary aberration just before half-time had Alty nerves on edge, and it almost became even more jittery for them in the 53rd minute, when Alex McQueen floated a free-kick into the heart of the area for Baker-Richardson to head narrowly wide with Thompson rooted to the spot.
Welcome though the two first-half goals were, there may have been concerns in the Alty camp that there was still no sign of a recognised striker on the scoresheet.
Not that there was any lack of endeavour from Bell to remedy that particular shortcoming. The on-loan Stockport County striker held the ball up well in the first half and was coming into the game even more in the second, frequently running at the Barnet defence to good effect.
He almost fashioned a shooting chance after latching on to a Moult pass in the 58th minute, and was in the thick of a flowing Alty move on the hour that ended with Smith firing a shot that was deflected narrowly over from the edge of the area.
If Thompson was at fault for Barnet reducing the arrears, he went some way towards making amends in the 64th minute, when McQueen's sharp acceleration opened up space for a shot from no more than 12 yards. It flew through a ruck of players, and may even have taken a slight deflection, but Thompson reacted superbly to keep it out.
It remained on a knife-edge, as McQueen hooked a great chance over the bar for Barnet in the 70th minute and Smith powered a shot that Azaze palmed over with some difficulty in the 79th minute.
Alty looked to have done enough, but it wasn't to be, as Barnet turned the game round and claimed all three points with two goals in quick succession late on.
The first was another defensive calamity for the Robins, with a failure to clear their lines, particularly by Mullarkey, proving costly, as McQueen sailed through unchallenged to drill an 88th-minute shot past Thompson.
Dropping two points was hard to take, surrendering all three was unthinkable, but it became a reality in the 89th minute when McQueen laid on a chance that substitute Tomi Adeloye snaffled up from close range.
There had been so much to admire about Alty's attacking play, after their recent scoring drought, but there was even more to concern Parkinson and his assistant Neil Sorvel about defensive deficiencies that effectively handed Barnet the points on a plate.