The Robins will be hoping for a return to winning ways this weekend as second-placed Sutton United visit The J. Davidson Stadium.
Phil Parkinson’s side were unable to build on their impressive 1-0 win against Maidenhead United, a game televised live on BT Sport, suffering back-to-back losses against King’s Lynn Town and FC Halifax Town.
In the defeat to the Shaymen, Alty started well and could have taken the lead after eight minutes when Yusifu Ceesay released Josh Hancock through on goal, only for Halifax ‘keeper Sam Johnson to deny the midfielder with a brilliant save.
Moments later, the visitors took the lead through Jack Earing, after the midfielder carried the ball to the edge of the area before beating Tony Thompson with a well-struck effort.
The Robins warmed into the game but were unable to level the score before the break, with Ryan Colclough creating the best chance in the 20th minute when he dribbled his way into the box before seeing his shot blocked by a desperate lunge.
Hancock, Ceesay and Colclough all had opportunities to get Alty back on level terms in the second half, with former Scunthorpe United attacker Colclough almost grabbing a late equaliser in the 86th minute, only to find Johnson equal to his tremendous long-range effort.
Despite their best efforts in the closing stages, Alty could not penetrate a stubborn Halifax defence and were left empty-handed for the second successive game.
Following that result, the Robins dropped one place to 14thin the Vanarama National League table, nine points behind Wrexham in the final play-off place, having played one more game than the Red Dragons.
This will be the second meeting between the sides this season, with Connor Hampson producing a moment of quality in the dying moments to grab a point at Gander Green Lane. The visitors had taken the lead after 16 minutes through Toby Mullarkey, but goals from David Ajiboye and Isaac Olaofe handed Sutton the advantage.
Deep into injury time, with Parkinson’s side staring defeat in the face, the Alty left-back picked the ball up just inside the U’s half and took one touch before bending the ball into the top corner of Dean Bouzanis’ goal.
You can watch the highlights of that 2-2 draw against Sutton United by pressing play below.
Champions of the National League South in 2015/16, Sutton United have settled well at the next level and will now feel that a place in the Football League is well within reach. They earned an opportunity to compete for promotion in the 2017/18 season, when they qualified for the play-offs, but they fell to Boreham Wood at the semi-final stage. As the current favourites to win the league this time around, players and fans alike will feel this time that their fate rests firmly in their own hands.
Our opponents on Saturday currently sit second in the National League table, one point behind Hartlepool United but with three games in hand. So far this season, Matt Gray’s side have played a total of 32 games, winning 18, drawing nine and losing only five. From those games, the U’s have scored 51 goals (the second-best scoring record behind Torquay United) and conceded only 27 (the second-best defensive record behind Stockport County). From their last five games, they have hit a roadblock by going four games without a win, allowing Hartlepool to move into first place. They last collected three points against Bromley on March 23.
Despite a dip in form, the U’s place in the play-offs, at least, looks all but secured as they enjoy a 13-point gap between themselves and FC Halifax Town in eighth. With 10 games left, seven of which are against sides in the bottom half of the table, they will feel confident that they have what it takes to finish the job.
Gray replaced Paul Doswell as manager towards the end of the 2018/19 campaign and steered his side to a mid-table finish the following season, with the final positions decided using PPG.
This year, he has led the way in the battle for automatic promotion to the Football League, with Hartlepool United, Torquay United, and Stockport County providing close competition.
Matt began his career with Premier League Tottenham Hotspur before playing for the likes of Cardiff City, Hayes and Havant & Waterlooville, before he was forced into an early retirement, due to a series of injuries. Away from the football pitch, he has kept himself busy running his own sports coaching business.
Gray had some experience of coaching before taking over as manager at Gander Green Lane. Previously, he had spells as an assistant manager in the National League with Eastleigh, as well as a spell in League Two with Aldershot Town and Crawley Town.
Backed by experienced players like Craig Eastmond, Harry Beautyman, Wayne Brown and Dean Bouzanis, Gray has made a good job of exploiting the loan market to reinforce his forward line, adding exciting Millwall attacker Isaac Olaofe as well as Bath City’s Donovan Wilson on a temporary basis.
A win for Altrincham on Saturday could see them leapfrog Solihull Moors into 13th, six points away from the play-offs. However, a win for Sutton United could see them overtake Hartlepool to reclaim the top spot.
Last five league games
Altrincham: LWWLL (F4 A4)
Sutton United: WDDDL (F5 A4)
Join Brian Flynn & Niall Finnegan at 4.20pm to watch the whole match on Alty TV Live.
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You can listen to live commentary on Radio Robins, sponsored by Ashley Mowers Garden Machinery, and the broadcast starts at 4.00pm.
The match commentary sponsor is 'Andys Man Club'.
The commentary team is Paul Salt, Mark Simpson & John Edwards.
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Image by Jonathan Moore.
Altrincham welcomed Sutton United to the J Davidson Stadium on a sunny late afternoon. The visitors had a lot to play for being just one point behind the league leaders Hartlepool with three games in hand.
Sutton proved very lively from the outset, charging at the Altrincham defence and causing problems early on. It wasn’t a surprise then that their efforts got them a timely goal. Milsom weaved his way into Alty’s final third and was brought down by Williams just outside the box in a central position. The ideal location for the free kick was capitalised on by Milsom with a left-footed strike which curled expertly past the outstretched arm of Thompson after 7 minutes.
After the goal, Altrincham had their first opportunities to have a go at the Sutton defence, but their attempts were poor due to misplaced passes and nothing seemed to be clicking. The yellows kept up the pressure and their momentum paid off again with another goal, this time from open play. 31 minutes in, Wilson was slotted the ball by Olaofe and he turned and powered his effort along the ground into the bottom right corner.
Sutton controlled the first half very effectively and thwarted any threat from Altrincham’s forward play.
HT: Altrincham 0 – 2 Sutton United
The start of the second half saw Altrincham have a little bit more of the ball and they had a couple of half chances. Senior and Ceesay linked up well and created a chance for Piggott, but it was not much trouble for the strong Sutton defence. Next, Williams put a great free kick into the box and Hannigan rose up for a flick on header, but it drifted well wide.
It didn’t take much longer for Sutton to get themselves on the scoresheet once more. Moult carried out his defensive duties well, clearing a dangerous ball from John. Unfortunately for the Altrincham captain it was put back in, this time finding Sho-Silva whose cool finish was well placed past Thompson after 55 minutes.
Only 7 minutes later and Matt Gray’s side made it four due to a poor mistake from Thompson. He took a goal kick quickly and straight into the path of Wilson who had no trouble in turning his effort home into the open net.
Phil Parkinson changed up the Altrincham attacking force by bringing on Mooney and later Bell in an effort to gain some consolation but overall, the Robins hardly tested the Sutton keeper Bouzanis. The high score line was testament to an impressive performance from the visitors and a tepid showing from the reds.
FT: Altrincham 0 – 4 Sutton United