Phil Parkinson will be looking to put an end to Alty’s four-game losing run when they welcome Notts County to The J. Davidson Stadium this weekend.
Following the 1-0 win over Maidenhead United, the Robins have struggled for form, losing four on the bounce against King’s Lynn Town, FC Halifax Town, Sutton United, and Barnet.
In their most recent defeat against the struggling Bees, Alty had started brilliantly, taking the lead after only four minutes through Ryan Colclough’s tremendous strike.
That lead was doubled in the 16th minute when Alistair Smith rose highest to turn Ritchie Sutton’s pin-point cross past Aymen Azeez into the back of the net.
However, under the management of Simon Bassey, Barnet have become a much-improved side and just before the break, Courtney Baker-Richardson capitalised on a mistake to reduce the lead to one.
Minutes before the final whistle, the Bees drew level through Ephron Mason-Clark, after the midfielder intercepted the ball before finishing well in the 88th minute.
The comeback was complete moments later, after former Stoke City and Millwall Academy graduate Tomi Adeloye prodded home from close range.
The Robins had a late chance for a point when Jake Moult looked to have broken through, but fantastic defending from Sam Beard condemned us to a fourth successive loss.
You can watch the highlights of that game by pressing play below.
Following that result, the Robins remain 17thin the Vanarama National League table, four points behind Yeovil Town but having played two more games than the Glovers.
This will be the second meeting between the sides this season, with the Robins falling to a 3-1 away defeat at Meadow Lane. Two first-half goals from Kyle Wootton handed County a commanding lead at the break, before Jake Reeves’ goal midway through the second half looked to have put the game to bed.
Dan Mooney’s strike with 13 minutes left gave Alty some hope of executing a comeback, but the hosts were able to keep the visitors at bay, handing the Robins their first loss of the season.
You can watch the highlights of that game by pressing play below.
After relegation from the Football League for the first time in their 157-year history, following a disappointing 2018/19 season, our guests on Saturday set about making an immediate return. A successful National League campaign saw the Magpies qualify for the 2019/20 play-off final, beating Barnet 2-0 in the semi-final. However, they lost to Harrogate Town in the final at Wembley Stadium.
In their second season at this level, Notts had looked on course at the very least to make it back into the play-offs, but a change in management and a drop in form has seen the historic club fall down the Vanarama National League table.
Currently, our opponents sit 10th, after winning 15, drawing eight, and losing 11 of their 34 games. Despite going winless in their last five matches, losing four (against Hartlepool United, Solihull Moors, and Eastleigh twice) and drawing once (against Torquay United), the Magpies still hold a respectable +10 goal difference, after scoring 44 and conceding 34.
What will be of concern for County supporters is that from their last five games, they have only scored three goals, while conceding nine. If you look further back at their record this season, form seems to tail off after the heart-breaking FA Trophy semi-final defeat to Hornchurch on March 27, winning only two of the following eight games.
Notts County are managed by Ian Birchnall, who took over at Meadow Lane after the departure of Neal Ardley and Greg Abbott on March 24. This is the 38-year-old’s first spell as a manager in the UK, following periods with Sarpsborg 08, Viking, and Ostersund.
Rather than starting out as a player and moving into the dug-out upon retirement, Birchnall is a man who threw himself into coaching at 22 years of age with a role at the University of Leeds. He quickly progressed and before long, he was handed coaching roles in the Academies of Leeds United and Bradford City.
Despite enjoying plenty of opportunities on these shores, the current Notts manager got his first break when he became the assistant-manager to Brian Deane at Norwegian club Sarpsborg 08. After two years at Sarpsborg Stadion, he accepted a similar position with Eliteserien rivals Viking, before becoming first-team manager on November 24, 2016.
However, after only a season with the Dark Blues, he moved to Sweden to take over at Ostersund, after previous manager Graham Potter accepted the first-team manager role with Swansea City. Despite struggling on the pitch, Birchnall is widely credited by the Ostersund support for keeping the club in the top tier of Swedish football and, as a show of gratitude, they hosted a party to thank him for his services after his departure.
A win for Altrincham would see the Robins remain in 17th, potentially closing to within one point of Yeovil Town in 16th. However, were Notts County to come away with all three points, they could reignite their promotion campaign by climbing back into the play-off places.
Last five league games
Altrincham: WLLLL (F3 A10)
Notts County: LLLDL (F3 A9)
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Alistair Smith celebrates his third goal this season. Photo by Jonathan Moore.
Altrincham welcomed Notts county to the J Davidson Stadium this afternoon. The visitors are pushing for a spot in the playoffs this season and therefore had a lot to play for. Phil Parkinson’s side looked to put an end to their recent bad run of form. There were no changes to the previous starting line-up from the Altrincham manager but centre back Yoan Zouma took a place on the bench, having recovered from his recent injury.
Altrincham started positively and seemed more energetic than their recent performances, advancing into the final third well. Their first chance came from an ambitious ball which almost picked out Bell but Notts’ keeper Steele sprinted out to clear it. It fell to Smith who attempted to chip the keeper from distance, but it just drifted wide.
Notts seemed to be slightly hesitant with their passing and misplaced passes were leading to Altrincham counter attacks. Ogle found himself in acres of space down the left-hand side and charged into the penalty area finding Smith. It was almost squared to Mooney but went astray in what proved to be another dangerous attack.
The Robins kept up their momentum which eventually paid off after 24 minutes and it was Smith at the heart of it yet again. Mooney’s fast feet found the Altrincham midfielder outside the box whose left-footed shot was too much for Steele. It was a clean, powerful effort that rocketed into the bottom right corner.
The following 20 minutes saw Altrincham’s attacking ease a little, with Notts having a go at breaking down the Alty defense. It was looking quite comfortable for the home side up until the final moments of the first half when Ogle was booked for a foul just outside the box. Rodrigues stepped up to take the resulting free kick which he dipped over the wall and into the back of the net. It wasn’t the best placed finish and perhaps could have been stopped had it been defended better. Therefore, it was a disappointing finish to the first half for the reds after conceding another injury time goal.
HT: Altrincham 1 – 1 Notts County
Kick off for the second half saw two changes for Notts County who went from 5 to 4 in their defensive line. Despite their attacking intentions, the first 20 minutes of the second half were rather flat from both sides. Notts called Thompson into action a couple of times and the Alty keeper made a couple of important saves against shots from Wooton and Boldewijn.
It picked up again for Altrincham at the 70 minute mark when substitute Peers linked up well with Smith but the goal-scorer’s effort curled over the bar. Hancock was subbed on with 12 minutes to go and involved himself in some action straight away, holding the ball up impressively and finding Senior who shot just inches wide of the post.
The Robins could have seen the winner in the dying moments of the game when a Colclough shot was saved by Steele. It fell to Peers who struggled to place his effort from close range and ended up firing high and wide.
It was a much-improved performance from Phil Parkinson’s side and a surprisingly lukewarm one from the playoff contenders, given their strong win in the reverse fixture at the start of the season. There was a lot of encouraging signs from Altrincham who put an end to their recent poor form and potentially could have taken all 3 points.
FT: Altrincham 1 – 1 Notts County