Altrincham put their impressive record on the line on Tuesday evening when they welcome Vanarama National League leaders Grimsby Town to The J. Davidson Stadium.
After successive victories over Notts County and King’s Lynn Town, the Robins faced their toughest test of the season when they went face-to-face with Dagenham & Redbridge at the Chigwell Construction Stadium, a ground that the hosts had yet to lose at this season.
However, despite being 2-1 down and with only three minutes left, Phil Parkinson’s men scored two late goals, one with the last kick of the game, to complete the comeback and secure all three points.
Alty started strongly and after 10 minutes, they had the lead when Marcus Dinanga’s shot took a deflection off former Barnet defender Callum Reynolds, taking the ball beyond Elliot Justham and into the far corner.
The Daggers grew into the game and found themselves level after 37 minutes, when Mauro Vilhete was given too much space at the far post to prod the ball home from close range.
Matt Robinson edged the hosts ahead just before the break when another deep ball into the box wasn’t dealt with correctly, presenting the midfielder with the simplest of finishes.
Alty put in a terrific second half performance and were rewarded for their play with 87 minutes on the clock when Josh Hancock, who had started on the bench, curled the ball beyond the Daggers custodian to level the score.
And with what was the last kick of the game, the Robins sent the 70 travelling supporters into raptures when Dan Mooney reacted quickest to a loose ball, hammering home through a sea of bodies to secure the team's third successive win.
You can watch the highlights of that 3-2 win by pressing play below.
Following that result, the Robins climbed to sixth in the table, five points behind the Mariners, having played two fewer games than Tuesday’s visitors.
This will be the first game between the sides for several years, with January 23, 2016 being the last time Altrincham and Grimsby played competitively against one another.
On that occasion, goals from Andy Monkhouse (2), Omar Bogle, Padraig Amond and Nathan Arnold condemned Matt Doughty’s Alty side to a 5-0 loss at Blundell Park.
In that game, Monkhouse handed Grimsby the lead after only two minutes, before Bogle doubled the score in the 19th minute with a powerful header.
Monkhouse added the Mariners’ third early in the second half, while Amond netted his 25th goal of the season to increase the hosts’ lead to four.
And deep into stoppage time, Arnold rubbed salt into the wound, adding a fifth and putting an exclamation mark on what was a one-sided victory.
Relegated from the Football League at the end of last season, Grimsby Town are looking to do what so many before them have found difficult, bounce back at the first time of asking.
Founded in 1878, the Mariners have started on the right foot and currently find themselves top of the table after only nine games. Of those games, Tuesday’s visitors have won six, drawn two and lost only once, scoring 21 goals and conceding nine.
In their bid to make their stay at this level a short one, they have recruited well. Adding striker John McAtee to their ranks has so far paid off for Paul Hurst’s team, with the former Scunthorpe United man currently the club’s top scorer with five goals.
Alongside Ryan Taylor, another new addition from Newport County, Grimsby have the early makings of a prolific strike partnership.
In their last game against Dover Athletic, Town were in rampant form, hitting the struggling Whites for six, courtesy of goals from McAtee, Taylor, Luke Waterfall, and Will Bapaga.
After Bapaga’s penalty was saved by Adam Parkes, Waterfall put his side in front three minutes later, heading home at the back post. McAtee then doubled the lead in the 31st minute, nudging the ball around Parkes and rolling home.
Dover gave away a third penalty in the 33rd minute when Bapaga was tripped, with Taylor the man to convert from the spot. Grimsby then added two more goals in the 45th minute, with Bapaga netting the fourth and Taylor getting his second on the stroke of half time.
Waterfall got his second goal in the 70th minute, heading home a corner to round off an impressive day for the home side.
Grimsby are managed by Paul Hurst, a man who is enjoying a second spell in charge at Blundell Park, after rejoining the club in December 2020 alongside assistant Chris Doig. While their relegation from League Two will have been a great disappointment, their form to start this season will give them great hope that their League status will soon be restored.
After spending most of his playing career with Rotherham United, making 438 appearances and scoring 13 goals across 15 years, Hurst dipped his toe into management by taking the reins at Ilkeston Town in 2009.
Despite guiding the club to the National League North, he soon departed for Boston United, a club he enjoyed great success with.
Hurst soon attracted the attention of Grimsby Town, who appointed him manager in 2013 with the aim of returning the club to the League. He did just that three seasons later, beating Forest Green Rovers 3-1 in the play-off final at Wembley.
He then made the switch to Shrewsbury Town the following year, before moving to Ipswich Town in May 2018. His time with the Suffolk-based club was short and after only five months, he was relieved of his duties. A similarly short spell with Scunthorpe United was to follow before he returned to Blundell Park in 2020.
A win for Altrincham on Tuesday evening could move the club to fourth in the table, while a win for Grimsby would further solidify their place at the summit.
Last five league games
Altrincham: WLWWW (F11 A6)
Grimsby Town: WWDLW (F13 A5)
Listen to the game Live on Radio Robins
You can listen to live commentary on Radio Robins, sponsored by Ashley Mowers Garden Machinery.
The broadcast starts at 7.30pm
The match commentary sponsor is Andy’s Man Club
The commentary team is Brian Flynn and Tim Ainsworth
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'.
*Game on .. Dan Mooney starts the comeback with Alty's first goal. Picture by Michael Ripley.
Altrincham 2 Grimsby Town 3
Altrincham’s magnificent new pitch sailed through its first real test with flying colours, but the players narrowly, agonisingly failed to pass theirs on a night of high drama and torrential rain at The J.Davidson Stadium.
In truth, it could scarcely be called the first time the Robins’ credentials have been put to the test this season, given they have travelled to Torquay United and Dagenham & Redbridge and faced Notts County at home and prevailed against all three.
But an examination it was all the same against pacesetters Grimsby, and how close they came to at least sharing the points after they came storming back from 3-0 arrears to leave the Vanarama National League leaders hanging on for dear life in the closing minutes.
Admittedly, Alty were given a helping hand by a second yellow card for flying winger Will Bapaga in the 57th minute, but how they capitalised on their one-man advantage, laying siege to the Grimsby goal and, urged on by a packed Venditan Gold Road, scoring through Dan Mooney and skipper Jake Moult.
It was drama, excitement and incident all the way, but, in the end, with the Grimsby box under constant bombardment, time ran out, and the chance to put one over a team leading the table for the second time in three days was lost.
It was, at least, a triumph for an expensively-relaid surface, which has been playing like a dream since day one but still awaited, with just a trace of anxiety, the first occasion it was required to absorb water by the bucketload.
That moment of truth duly arrived against Grimsby, with rain at times pounding the pitch but, to the relief of everyone after all the problems with postponements in recent seasons, conditions never once showing any sign of deteriorating.
Of course, Alty aren’t the only ones who can benefit from such a true playing surface, and Grimsby soon demonstrated it was to their liking, too, as they came flying out of the traps.
Though Marcus Dinanga threatened with a shot on the turn that was blocked by a defender near the Grimsby penalty spot in the 14th minute, the visitors looked the more menacing and deservedly went ahead in the 27th minute, when pacey winger Bapaga opened up space on the left of the area and fired a shot into the roof of the net.
It took an outstanding double save from Tony Thompson to deny John McAtee from close range in the 40th minute and ensure the Robins went in at half-time only one goal behind.
Undeterred, the Mariners doubled their lead in the 48th minute after Thompson reacted brilliantly to parry the ball to his right but was unable to prevent Ryan Taylor seizing the opportunity to ram the rebound home.
There was a swagger about Grimsby’s approach work now, befitting a side at the top of the table, and their advantage looked unassailable after 55 minutes, when Harry Clifton rounded off some slick interplay with an unstoppable shot from 15 yards.
Unassailable, that is, until Bapaga incurred the wrath of referee Stephen Copeland by appearing to impede an Alty throw-in and receiving a second yellow card for his troubles in a development that very nearly turned the contest on its head.
With renewed belief suddenly surging through the Alty ranks, the fightback began in earnest, as Josh Hancock set up Mooney for an unerring finish inside the right-hand post from the edge of the area in the 65th minute.
Ten minutes later, it was well and truly game on, as Ryan Colclough’s inswinging corner led to a scramble that ended with Moult appearing to get the decisive final touch that bundled the ball over the line.
One final push for an equaliser that appeared unlikely to say the least half-an-hour earlier went unrewarded, but the sight of Grimsby’s players greeting the final whistle as if they had just won the title said everything about the scrap Alty had given them.