Torquay United v Altrincham
Vanarama National League
Tuesday 2nd February 2021, 19:45 KO
Match Preview - By Ed Painter
Phil Parkinson’s Altrincham side travel to Plainmoor on Tuesday evening as they face league leaders Torquay United in another important Vanarama National League tie.
The Robins enter this game fresh from the impressive 2-0 midweek win against struggling Wealdstone, a result which temporarily lifted Alty to fourth in the table.
Josh Hancock’s headed effort shortly before the half time break gave the Robins the lead their play deserved at the wet and windy J. Davidson Stadium.
Alty’s dominance continued into the second period and with only ten minutes left on the clock, Alistair Smith’s fine finish at the near post secured a win which lifted the club closer to the top of the league table.
You can watch highlights of our 2-0 victory over Wealdstone by clicking play below.
However, after the latest round of fixtures on Saturday, of which we were not scheduled to play, Phil Parkinson’s Alty side dropped to seventh, following positive results for Stockport County, Maidenhead United and Notts County.
That result also means that the Robins are now level on points with Notts and Maidenhead in fifth and sixth respectively, and only one point behind Stockport and Sutton United in third and fourth. However, the only downside is that all four of those teams have played three fewer games than Alty.
Connor Hampson will make his 100th league appearance tomorrow should he feature for the Robins.
Our opponents on Tuesday evening have set the standards this season and find themselves atop the National League, a whopping ten points clear of Hartlepool United in second, despite having played one more game than the Pools. After playing 20 games so far this season, the Gulls have amassed 13 wins, four draws and only three losses, with those losses coming against Yeovil Town, Dagenham & Redbridge, and Eastleigh.
From those games, Torquay have shown just how dangerous they are in front of goal, having scored 40 goals. They are just as impressive at the other end of the pitch, conceding 17, with only Boreham Wood and Solihull Moors having better defensive records this season.
In their last outing, the Gulls bounced back from two successive goalless draws, against Sutton United and Notts County, by beating a Barnet side who are still looking for their first league win since October. The league leaders got off to a fast start when midfielder Ben Whitfield struck in the eighth minute to hand the visitors the lead, before the game was wrapped up with 82 minutes on the clock by Jake Andrews from 25 yards out.
Tuesday evening’s game is the first time these two sides have faced one another since the 2015/16 season, a year which ended with relegation for Alty. On April 12, 2016, this meeting ended 2-0 in favour of Tuesday’s hosts. On that occasion, a first half goal from Luke Young, followed by Shaun Harrad’s strike midway through the second half was enough to secure the Gulls all three points.
Torquay are managed by Gary Johnson, who has a large amount of experience managing in the Football League with the likes of Yeovil Town, Bristol City, Peterborough United and Northampton Town. He has even won the National League title before with Cheltenham Town in 2016. Johnson has amassed an impressive squad since taking over the reins, bringing Connor Lemonheigh-Evans, Dean Moxey, and Jake Andrews to Plainmoor.
However, Alty have been boosted by an impressive arrival of their own, as Wigan Athletic forward Joe Piggott signed on at the J. Davidson Stadium on a deal until the end of the 2021/22 season. Piggott is a name that the Robins’ faithful will know well, after the forward enjoyed a successful loan spell at the club 2 years ago, scoring four goals from six games.
With both teams entering this game on the back of victories, Tuesday evening’s meeting will provide an excellent opportunity for Phil Parkinson’s men to show how they match up against one of the strongest teams in the division.
Last five games
Torquay United: LWDDW (F7 A2)
Altrincham: LDDWW (F10 A8)
Watch the game live
Click here to order the Torquay United live stream, at a cost of £9.
Listen to the game live on Radio Robins
Torquay United do not currently permit any visiting media or directors at their home games, therefore Radio Robins, sponsored by Ashley Mowers Garden Machinery will provide a remote broadcast from The J.Davidson Stadium, starting at 7.30pm.
The match sponsor is Terry Surridge & the commentary team is Brian Flynn, Ian Wilkinson, Paul Salt & Niall Finnegan.
You can listen to Radio Robins in any of the following ways:
1) By visiting our Match Centre on the club website
2) Download and install the Mixlr app on Android devices from the Google Play Store - start the app and search for 'Radio Robins'.
3) Download and install the Mixlr app on Apple devices from the Apple Store - start the app and search for 'Radio Robins'.
If you’re going to punch above your weight, you may as well make it count, and Altrincham did just that with a stunning one-two that left runaway Vanarama National League leaders Torquay United staring glassy-eyed at the night sky at a windswept, rain-lashed Plainmoor.
A nerveless Josh Hancock equaliser from the penalty spot had the table-toppers reeling, and when Ryan Colclough followed up with an unstoppable first-time strike to make it 2-1 on the stroke of half-time, they were out for the count.
It was the Robins' third straight win - their sixth on the road in the league this season - and it lifted them to fourth in the table, just a single point behind second-placed Hartlepool United. They have taken 27 points from their last 13 games and have now returned from trips to all the other teams in the top five with something to show for their efforts.
It might be worth remembering at this point, amid such a dizzying array of statistics, that it’s Altrincham we’re talking about. Little part-time Alty with a budget dwarfed by virtually everyone else’s in non-League’s premier division and who were supposed to be aiming for little more than survival in their first season back.
Hence the reference to punching above our weight, but the blows are likely to keep landing, judging by the squad manager Phil Parkinson has somehow managed to put together against all the odds.
It’s one thing being backed by the board, but he still has to persuade the likes of Ryan Colclough (pictured scoring at Stockport), Matty Kosylo, Alistair Smith and Dan Mooney that forsaking full-time status to throw their lot in with the Robins would be an advisable career move.
No easy task, but the straight-talking Robins boss has done it, and, as a consequence, his side are going into games such as their latest test on the Devon coast looking as good as, if not better than, their lofty hosts, often boasting a sharper, more menacing attacking threat on the flanks and greater poise and composure in midfield.
And when there was a need to stand firm at the back and defend a slender advantage, as there was here for the duration of the second half, it was accomplished with a resolve that underlined how well served this Alty side are in all departments.
Torquay looked to have weathered an early storm that included a rasping Dan Mooney drive against the underside of the bar and must have felt they were primed for another routine home win when skipper Kyle Cameron forced an opening goal past Tony Thompson from close range at the second attempt after Alty failed to deal with a free-kick from the right wing in the 21st minute.
Mooney’s lively contribution being curtailed as early as the 25th minute, after he failed to shake off an earlier knock, could only have reinforced the home team's sense of wellbeing, given the darting runs by the Alty winger that had repeatedly threatened to unhinge them.
But the sight of Colclough coming on to replace him demonstrated another facet of this Alty squad that bodes so well for their prospects. Not only is there quality in all areas, there’s strength in depth to boot, so much so that Parkinson faces selection dilemmas over naming his bench as well as his starting X1.
The enforced change had no weakening effect on Alty whatsoever, as proved by a spectacular winner from Colclough that followed an equaliser engineered and executed by Hancock in the 33rd minute.
A typically-clever turn by Alty’s attacking midfielder took him clear of a close marker, and when his advance into the area was halted by the clumsiest of fouls by Sam Sherring for the clearest of penalties, he picked himself up to send keeper Shaun MacDonald the wrong way from the spot.
MacDonald could count himself lucky to be given the benefit of the doubt - not that there seemed to be any - after he dropped a Kosylo corner and saw the ball hooked over the line in the 44th minute - the referee mysteriously blowing for an infringement - but there was no reprieve for Torquay or their keeper a minute later.
A Kosylo pass to Hancock was swiftly switched across to Colclough on the left of the area, and the Alty substitute didn’t hesitate to curl a first-time right foot shot with pace into the top far corner.
It was a goal fit to win any game, and a disciplined, if not quite so flowing, second-half performance from the Robins limited Torquay chances to a bare minimum and saw them over the line for a result to savour against a side who were 10 points clear at the summit at the start of play.
The only blemish was a late red card for skipper Jake Moult, following an apparent incident involving Cameron, which unfortunately did not come across clearly on the Torquay stream but that left the Alty midfielder looking bemused as he trudged off.
It couldn’t take the gloss off an outstanding achievement for Parkinson’s in-form team, though. As one of Torquay’s local media outlets, DevonLive, put it in their post-match headline: Gulls slip to defeat against promotion rivals.
Promotion rivals, eh? Sounds good, doesn’t it?