Altrincham are back on Tameside tomorrow, as they continue their build-up to the new season. This time, it's Curzon Ashton who lie in wait, a fortnight after Phil Parkinson's side prevailed 2-0 at Ashton United. Here, ED PAINTER sets the scene for the Robins' latest pre-season test.
The Robins’ pre-season programme gets turned up a notch on Saturday when they face Curzon Ashton at the Tameside Stadium, with only two weeks remaining until the Vanarama National League campaign begins.
Following successive wins over Ashton United, Nantwich Town and Brightlingsea Regent, Alty were stunned by Stoke City under-23s, falling 5-1 to a side that proved to be very clinical in front of goal.
After Marcus Dinanga opened the scoring in the sixth minute, the Potters flexed their muscles and came away with a resounding win at their Clayton Wood training ground.
However, with the squad split in two for the second time in the space of a fortnight, Alty fared better in their second fixture of the day, as they bounced back with a late comeback at the Horsfall Stadium, beating Bradford (Park Avenue) 2-1 courtesy of goals from Matty Kosylo and Tom Peers.
The hosts had the lead after only 11 minutes. Following a handball inside the Altrincham penalty area by a trialist, former Chesterfield attacker Luke Rawson stepped up to fire his spot-kick into the bottom right corner of Tony Thompson’s net.
Kosylo and Peers both went close to levelling the score before half-time, only for some excellent defending from Mark Bower’s side to keep the duo at bay.
With under 10 minutes left, Alty had their equaliser, a spectacular one at that. Winning a free-kick just outside the Park Avenue box, Kosylo stepped up to bend the ball over the wall and into the bottom corner, with the home keeper powerless to stop him.
And as the game looked to be heading for a draw, excellent work from substitute Curtis Miller forced the West Yorkshire side’s shot-stopper into a save, but he could only parry the ball, and Peers bundled it over the line.
This gives the Robins a record of four wins and two losses from their six pre-season games so far, with Curzon Ashton undoubtedly providing Alty with a tough challenge.
Founded in 1963 as Curzon Amateurs and based a 30-minute drive from The J. Davidson Stadium, Curzon Ashton are members of the National League North, having won promotion from the Northern Premier League Premier Division via the play-offs in 2015.
The Nash finished 11th in 2016, the highest league position in the club’s history and have done well to stay in this very competitive division for six seasons to date.
There will be one or two familiar faces in the Curzon squad tomorrow afternoon. Craig Mahon joined the Tameside club just under a year ago, having helped the Robins secure promotion to The National League, whilst Craig Hobson’s one-year stay at The J.Davidson Stadium in the 2016/17 season was less successful as the striker struggled with injury throughout a torrid season that saw the Robins relegated to The Northern Premier League Premier Division.
Our hosts are managed by Steve Cunningham, who took charge in June, 2020, following the departure of former coach Mark Bradshaw. Cunningham joined The Nash from Northern Premier League Division One North West side Colne.
As Colne manager, he guided the club to promotion from the North West Counties Premier Division and led them to numerous Northern Premier League Division One play-off appearances. He had also previously represented Colne as a player.
In his first season at the club, he led Curzon to 16th in the National League North table, recording four wins, five draws, and eight losses, before the season was brought to a premature end.
In their last outing, The Nash fell to a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Northern Premier League Premier Division side Hyde United. Jake Tongue’s 22nd-minute strike saw the Tigers to a half time lead, before Luke Hinsley doubled the advantage moments after the restart. This was their third consecutive pre-season defeat, having opened their pre-season schedule with a draw at Trafford, followed by three consecutive victories.
Admission prices for the match are as follows:
£10 – Adults (+ 0.84 booking fee)
£5 - Concessions (+ £0.42 booking fee) (Over 65s and Students only)
Free - Under 16’s (With an accompanying adult)
Please note that there will be no cash payments, access is via contact/cashless entry only.
Listen to the game Live on Radio Robins
You can listen to live commentary on Radio Robins and the broadcast starts at 2.55pm
The commentary team is Mark Simpson, Andy Ainsworth, Simon Ellis and Matt Gould.
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'.
*It's there .. Tom Peers fires home to make it 1-1. Picture by Jonathan Moore.
He looks to be facing a tougher test than ever to nail down a first-team place after manager Phil Parkinson's recent acquisitions, but it will surprise no-one to hear that Tom Peers is showing no signs of giving up the fight.
After seeing Marcus Dinanga and A-Jay Leitch-Smith recruited to pep up Altrincham's forward line, the wholehearted Robins frontrunner could have been forgiven for sensing a starting berth was further away than ever and allowing it to sap his self-esteem.
Not a bit of it, though, not judging by the impact he made as a second-half substitute at the Tameside Stadium, as he grabbed his opportunity to impress Alty's management team with both hands, forcing home a late equaliser to salvage a 1-1 draw and constantly proving a handful for Curzon Ashton's defence.
Peers' 67th-minute leveller, from a smart move involving Leitch-Smith and Curtis Miller, came after the home side had gone ahead with a deflected shot from Alex Curran in the 32nd-minute, as Alty continued their build-up to the new season with a useful work-out in a 1-1 draw.
Alty started brightly, knocking the ball around confidently and building early momentum with some crisp passing and quick movement.
They almost went ahead after only two minutes, when Josh Hancock slipped the ball through to Dinanga, who made space for himself near the right edge of the six-yard box but dragged his shot narrowly wide of the far post.
On an excellent, lush playing surface - almost as good as Alty's, in fact - the Nash found themselves on the back foot, as the Robins continued to force the pace and dictate proceedings with an understanding and cohesion that has been evident for much of the pre-season programme to date.
Dinanga threatened a breakthrough again in the 12th minute after a Jake Moult interception gave Hancock the chance to thread a pass through to the Alty marksman.
But as he tried to hold off a challenge and sprint clear, he was crowded out, and the opportunity was lost.
For all their early enterprise, Alty not only failed to breach the home defence but found themselves increasingly pegged back as the half wore on, with Curzon finding their rhythm and gradually gaining a foothold in the game.
There was a sign of things to come in the 23rd minute when a glancing Dale Whitham header from a right-flank free-kick forced Tony Thompson into a diving save away to his right.
Alty responded with the move of the match two minutes later, Joel Senior latching on to a brilliant Hancock lay-off and powering forward before the ball was moved on to Ben Pringle and then out wide to Ryan Colclough, whose low left-wing cross narrowly eluded the outstretched boot of first Dinanga and then Matty Kosylo.
What a goal that would have been, but, instead, Alty found themselves trailing soon after, as Curran's first-time effort from a half-cleared free-kick took a deflection to give Thompson no chance.
It could easily have been 2-0 on the hour, after striker Dominic Knowles turned and hit a shot that looked to be scuffed but still had enough to beat Thompson's despairing dive, only to bounce back off the base of the post.
That was the cue for Alty to step it up, and they were back on terms in the 67th minute when Leitch-Smith, who had already taken the eye with a clever change of direction to lose his marker, combined with Miller to set up Peers for a chance that was expertly toe-poked past the keeper.
There was no settling for a draw, as both sides went in search of a winner and both went close to finding one in the closing stages.
Substitute Craig Hobson must have thought he had scored against his old club after meeting a right-wing cut-back with a first-time shot that looked destined for the bottom right corner of Alty's net, until Thompson reacted instinctively to pull off a phenomenal one-handed save. The Alty keeper has produced some remarkable stops in recent seasons, but this one had to be right up there with the very best.
Seconds later, Peers superbly controlled the ball, turned and released Miller down the left in one movement, and the resulting low cross would surely have been converted by the onrushing Connor Kirby, but for his shadow Matty Waters getting there a split-second before him and denying him a golden opportunity.
Overall, a decent if slightly patchy performance, with new and recent signings Dinanga, Pringle, Leitch-Smith and David Fitzpatrick all getting valuable minutes under their belts and suggesting they will contribute significantly to the Alty cause in the months ahead.