The Robins turn their attention towards the Emirates FA Cup tomorrow afternoon when they visit the Pure Stadium to face National League North side Southport.
Having secured a 2-0 win at home against Maidenhead United, Alty faced up admirably to numerous setbacks on Tuesday evening to earn an impressive 1-1 draw on the road against Yeovil Town.
With little over 20 minutes played, Phil Parkinson was forced into two early changes in quick succession, as Tony Thompson and Toby Mullarkey picked up injuries, with Connor Hampson and Dean Furman taking their places.
With no substitute ‘keeper on the bench, left-back Hampson stepped up to fill the void between the posts and really didn’t look out of place, pulling off several impressive saves to keep the score level heading into the break.
Yeovil finally breached the Alty defence with 57 minutes on the clock when in-form striker Joe Quigley reacted quickly to prod the ball home from close range, after Hampson had spilled a powerfully struck free-kick.
The Robins responded well and, shortly afterwards, they had their equaliser. A-Jay Leitch-Smith, starting up front in place of Marcus Dinanga, pounced on a defensive mistake in the Yeovil six-yard box, turning the ball home from no more than a couple of yards.
The hosts were convinced they had forced their way ahead in the 85th minute when Josh Staunton’s header looked destined for the back of the net, only for some heroic goal line defending to dampen their premature celebrations.
Alty deserved something from this game and, despite the many obstacles in their way, they persevered to take a share of the spoils.
Following that result, the Robins climbed to sixth in the Vanarama National League table, seven points behind leaders Grimsby Town, having played one game less than the Mariners.
This will be the first meeting between the sides since December 28, 2019, when two second-half strikes from John Johnston, either side of a goal from Josh Hancock, secured a 3-0 win at The J. Davidson Stadium.
Going into the break level, the Robins broke the deadlock in the 50th minute when Jordan Hulme threaded the ball through to Johnston, before the attacker fired into the top corner of the Southport net from a tight angle.
Shaun Densmore came close to scoring five minutes later, firing inches wide of the post from the centre of the box, before Hancock slotted home in the 70th minute to give Alty a two-goal lead.
Johnston got his second and the hosts' third not long after, collecting Hulme’s pass outside the six-yard box before turning the defender inside out and passing the ball home.
He could have even grabbed a deserved hat-trick towards the end of the game, but after cutting inside his marker, his effort from the corner of the penalty area whistled just the wrong side of the upright.
Founded in 1881 and relegated from the National League at the end of the 2016/17 season, Southport have found it difficult to mount a promotion push back to the fifth tier of English football, finishing no higher than 12th in the NL North across the four seasons spent at that level.
Based at Haig Avenue, currently named the Pure Stadium for sponsorship purposes, the Sandgrounders are a side that Alty know very well, having faced them 38 times in the league since 1968. Of those meetings, the Robins have won 17, drawn seven and lost 14.
Approximately a one-hour drive away from The J. Davidson Stadium, Southport have struggled so far this season and currently sit bottom of the NL North, one point behind AFC Telford United in 21st but having played one game less than the Bucks.
Having lost every one of their away games this season, the Yellows’ support has plenty of hope that they can climb away from the danger zone, thanks largely to their home record.
While still winless, nobody has come away from the Pure Stadium this season with all three points, with games against Gateshead, Kidderminster Harriers and Gloucester City ending all-square.
On top of that, their run in the FA Cup this season has seen them pull off some impressive results against Chorley and Spennymoor Town. While both games went to a replay, the Port came out on top at home on both occasions.
The exploits of striker Marcus Carver will have a big say as to what the Port can achieve this season, with the former Chorley man scoring seven goals across all competitions so far this season.
Alongside Josh Hmami (Marine’s FA Cup hero from last season), former Manchester City prospect Isaac Buckley-Ricketts and experienced striker Jordan Archer, they have the makings of a side that can do well.
In their last match against York City, Hmami’s first-half penalty was not enough as Southport fell to a 3-1 defeat at the York Community Stadium.
Midway through a closely-contested first half, the hosts edged ahead in the 29th minute when Matthew Brown was gifted far too much space to head the ball into the back of the net.
However, Southport were awarded a penalty three minutes later after Adam Anson was hauled to the floor. Hmami stepped up to take the spot kick, beating Pete Jameson in the York goal.
The Minstermen came out much stronger in the second half and soon restored their lead in the 58th minute, with Akil Wright on hand to turn the ball home.
And despite putting the hosts under plenty of pressure, the Port were left empty-handed when York midfielder Olly Dyson put the game beyond any doubt, tapping home from close range with 85 minutes gone.
Southport are managed by Liam Watson, who is enjoying his third spell in charge at the Pure Stadium, replacing Steve Burr in 2017 after the former Kidderminster Harriers and Chester coach was relieved of his duties.
A man who enjoyed a lengthy playing career across the football pyramid, Watson had featured for the likes of Maghull, Burscough, Warrington, Preston North End, Marine, Witton Albion, Runcorn and Accrington Stanley.
At the age of 29, Watson got his first taste of management in 2000 with Runcorn, a side who at the time were struggling in the Northern Premier League. After three relatively successful seasons, he replaced Mike Walsh at Southport to become the youngest manager in the Sandgrounders’ history.
After leaving for Burscough in 2006, he returned to Haig Avenue two years later before helping the club back to the Conference Premier at the end of the 2009/10 campaign. His side were relegated after only one year at that level, before Watson eventually took charge at AFC Telford United.
A short spell with the Bucks was followed by an equally-short spell with Stalybridge Celtic, before Watson stated in 2016 that “you will never see me in the dug-out again, I am retiring from management."
However, he soon made his return to Southport, originally joining the board of directors at the Pure Stadium before moving back into the dug-out after Burr’s departure.
Last five league games
Southport: DWDWL (F7 A7)
Altrincham: WWLWD (F12 A7)
What are they saying?
Southport boss Watson reacted to the club’s 3-1 defeat to York City, while briefly touching on Saturday’s FA Cup tie.
Concession (Over 65): £10
Junior (12-17): £5
Child (Under 12): Free
You can purchase your tickets for the game by following the link below.
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 2.45pm
The match commentary sponsor is Radio Alty
The commentary team is Brian Flynn, Ian Wilkinson and Mark Simpson
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'.
Other ways to follow the game
Not coming to the Pure Stadium on Saturday? You can also keep up to date via the following ways.
Match Centre: https://bit.ly/3DHD93v
*Get in! Tom Peers fires Alty level, and the Robins are on their way to the first round proper. Picture by Jonathan Moore.
Southport 2, Altrincham 3
Tin hats were as much a requirement as shin pads for Altrincham at Haig Avenue as they withstood an aerial bombardment to book their place in tomorrow’s Emirates FA Cup first round draw.
Tom Hannigan and Ritchie Sutton vied for the most number of headed clearances, with Jake Moult and even Tom Peers not far behind, as Alty came under constant attack in the air from a Southport side playing very much to type.
They had to come from behind after mounting first-half pressure from the home team finally yielded a 35th-minute breakthrough with a close-range finish from the lively Marcus Carver.
But come from behind they did, with a stunning one-two just before half-time, as Peers equalised and then Josh Hancock headed the Robins in front.
Alty looked home and dry when Matty Kosylo finished off a sweeping move in the 67th minute, but there were one or two nervy moments late on, following a 75th-minute reply by Carver.
Any team Liam Watson puts out generally favours the aerial route, and in the case of this particular Southport side, the threat came from more than just corners and free-kicks.
Throw-ins are just as much a part of their attacking armoury, as Alty discovered to their discomfort in only the second minute of this fiercely-fought fourth qualifying round tie.
FOOTY FOR A FIVER - READ MORE!
A free-kick floated into the heart of the area by Charlie Oliver was well dealt with by Matt Gould, asserting himself on his first start of the season with a confident double-fisted punch that despatched the ball to safety near the left corner flag.
Unfortunately for the Robins, with Doug Tharne in the Southport ranks, a throw-in anywhere near the penalty area constitutes anything but safety.
So it proved as a missile of a throw by the Southport defender found the head of Chris Doyle, and it took a superb goal line clearance from Joel Senior to deny the home side a flying start.
The Sandgrounders were belying their lowly position in the Vanarama National League North and causing Alty no end of problems with their aggressive, direct style.
It was certainly putting Gould to the test on only his fourth start for the Robins, but the experienced keeper, back from an impressive loan stint at Nantwich, was up to it with some assured handling and decisive punching, as the crosses rained in.
Little, if anything, had been seen of an Alty attack spearheaded by Peers, preferred to Marcus Dinanga who was on the bench, but they finally made inroads into home territory in the 16th minute.
Peers benefited from a slick build-up involving Kosylo and Hancock on the left, but, despite working enough space for a shot, the Alty frontrunner failed to pack enough power to trouble Cameron Mason, who saved comfortably diving to his left.
In true Watson fashion, it took Southport something like five seconds to transfer the ball to the other end, as Niall Watson, son of the manager, tore down the left and crossed for Josh Hmami to steer a header high and wide from close in.
With Sutton, another player back from a successful loan spell, standing firm alongside the ever-dependable Hannigan, Alty were looking secure enough at the back, and with that foundation in place, they began stepping up their efforts to exert pressure on the home goal.
It almost paid off in the 29th minute when another Gould punch enabled Senior to send Brad Jackson scampering away down the right flank.
Looking up after cutting in, the winger rolled the ball towards Hancock, whose miscued effort was followed by a similarly-mishit shot from Peers that so nearly turned into a fortuitous opening goal, as it spun over Mason and landed on the roof of the net.
In truth, Alty had failed to stamp their authority on proceedings up to this point, and they could have few complaints about falling behind in the 35th minute.
A swift exchange of passes on the left cut Alty’s defence apart, and when the ball was drilled low across the edge of the six-yard area, Carver was on hand to apply the finishing touch.
There was a scare for the Robins in the 40th minute, when another long throw from the right was bundled over the line, but a push on Gould was clear to see and correctly acted on by the referee, who blew for a foul.
How Alty capitalised on that potentially decisive moment going their way, as they silenced the home crowd with two goals in quick succession to finish the half in front.
A clever pass from Jackson picked out a Peers run in the 41st minute, and the Alty striker kept his cool after finding himself one-on-one with the keeper, firing in off the left post.
Alty’s injury curse struck again as two minutes of added time ticked away, when Jackson pulled up after sprinting down the right wing and was helped off the pitch at the far side, clutching the back of his left leg and needing treatment for what looked like a hamstring problem.
But there is something about playing with 10 men that brings the best out of this Altrincham team, and, sure enough, they proceeded to take the lead, right at the end of stoppage time, as a flashing near-post header by Hancock, from Kosylo’s right-wing corner, proved too good for Mason’s attempt to keep it out.
Alty were back to 11 men at the start of the second half, but it was with substitute Dan Mooney patrolling the right flank, rather than Jackson, whose hamstring injury prevented him continuing.
Not that it stopped Alty beginning the half on the front foot, as Peers, seemingly intent on making the most of a rare start up front, turned near the edge of the area and unleashed a shot that had Mason at full stretch to turn it round the post.
The aerial approach by Southport was unrelenting, but with Moult dropping back and lending his considerable heading ability to the cause, Alty were coping.
Not surprisingly, most of the football on show was courtesy of the Robins, as when Kosylo turned his marker one way then another before pulling his shot wide after being set up by Mooney.
Standing up to the blunt instrument Southport kept wielding is one way of combating it; sticking to your footballing principles and demonstrating they can be even more effective is another.
The argument for passing the ball, rather than leathering it, was never better presented than in the 67th minute when the lead became 3-1.
A brilliant turn on the right flank by Peers left both his markers floundering, and when he picked out Hancock in a central position in the area, the ball was unselfishly transferred to Kosylo, in an even better position, for a clinical finish past the unprotected Mason.
What a triumph for football over brute force, and justice was done when Alty rode out an uncomfortable final few minutes, after Carver reduced the arrears with a header from Watson’s cross, to ensure a place in the first round proper.