*Bees knees .. danger man Dan Mooney fires a shot at goal in Saturday's 1-1 draw at Barnet. Picture by Michael Ripley.
Ed Painter reports:
The Robins will be looking to build upon Saturday’s impressive performance when promotion-chasing Stockport County visit The J. Davidson Stadium on Tuesday evening.
On a run of three consecutive Vanarama National League losses, Phil Parkinson’s side faced Barnet on Saturday in the knowledge that improvements needed to be made, were they to climb back up the table.
He almost got exactly what he asked for when Ben Pringle’s second-half screamer looked to have earned the Robins a well-deserved victory. However, Mitch Brundle’s last-gasp strike forced the visitors to settle for a point when all three seemed to be on the cards.
Dan Mooney almost put Altrincham ahead midway through the first half, benefitting from a defence-splitting Elliot Osborne pass. However, after Dan cut inside his marker, he was frustrated to see Oxborough pull off a terrific save to keep things level.
Josh Hancock came within a whisker of breaking the deadlock early in the second period. Taking advantage of a terrific run and cross from Matty Kosylo, the midfielder took a touch before arching his shot a matter of inches over the Barnet crossbar.
Moments after coming on in the second half, experienced midfielder Pringle edged the Robins ahead in spectacular fashion, bending the ball beyond the reach of Barnet’s loanee keeper from outside the penalty area.
The visitors had a great chance to double their lead late in the game through Tom Hannigan, who could only fire into the side netting.
And they were made to pay with less than 30 seconds to play when the ball fortuitously fell to the feet of Brundle, who hammered home beyond Tony Thompson.
Following that result, the Robins remain 16th in the table, 10 points behind Stockport County in eighth, with Alty having played two more games than the Hatters.
This will be the second meeting between the sides this season, with Alty and Stockport having last faced one another on Boxing Day. On that occasion, the Hatters put Alty to the sword as they secured a dominant 5-1 win at Edgeley Park.
Former Bolton Wanderers midfielder Antoni Sarcevic tapped home to hand the hosts an early lead before Paddy Madden doubled the advantage from close range.
Scott Quigley blasted in from the edge of the area to cement the home side's control, while Will Collar added a fourth before half-time, moments after Ryan Croasdale turned the ball into his own net for Alty’s only goal of the day.
Ollie Crankshaw then added a late fifth, trading passes with Sarcevic before volleying home from a tight angle to leave Alty on the end of their heaviest defeat of the season.
You can watch the highlights of that game by pressing play below
Founded in 1883 as Heaton Norris Rovers, County have had their fair share of highs and lows. Placed in administration in 2009 and relegated from the Football League two years later, the Hatters have rebuilt on and off the pitch and now find themselves in a position to accommodate a return to League Two.
After narrowly missing out last season, losing to Hartlepool United in the play-off semi-finals, it was expected that County would be among the favourites to go one better this time around. However, after a slow start to the season, with the club stuck in the middle of the pack, a change seemed to be needed.
With Simon Rusk shown the door and Dave Challinor brought in, things have started to improve, with the club now within touching distance of a coveted play-off place.
So far this season, Stockport have played 20 games, winning 11, drawing three and losing six, scoring 35 goals and conceding 23 for a goal difference of +12.
To aid their bid for promotion, they have added a wealth of talent and experience to their playing staff, including one-time Bolton skipper Sarcevic, ex-Barrow striker Quigley and Crankshaw, who made the move from Bradford City.
Added to a group including the likes of Madden, Ryan Johnson, John Rooney and Ben Whitfield, Stockport have the kind of squad that could not only compete at the top end of this league, but also more than hold their own at the next level up.
In their last match against Solihull Moors, Madden's second-half header was enough to hand Stockport all three points at Damson Park.
In an evenly-contested first half, County thought they had taken the lead just before the break when Crankshaw's header was ruled out by the offside flag.
The visitors came within inches of breaking the deadlock straight after half-time when Crankshaw squared the ball for Quigley, who was denied on the goalline by James Clarke.
Solihull also came close on the hour mark when Jamey Osborne let fly from distance and saw his effort ping off the crossbar.
But Stockport scored the winner with 17 minutes to go. Collar found Madden at the back post before he sent a looping header into the net to earn victory.
Stockport County are managed by former AFC Fylde and Hartlepool United coach Dave Challinor, who took charge at Edgeley Park in November, 2021.
The former County captain replaced Simon Rusk, who was given his marching orders after a disappointing start to the season.
A defender in his playing days, Challinor started out with Tranmere Rovers in 1994, spending eight years at Prenton Park, playing in 140 games and scoring six goals.
He moved to Stockport in 2002 and featured 81 times across two seasons, before moving to Bury in 2004. After 158 appearances at Gigg Lane, he signed with Colwyn Bay, where he eventually hung up his boots.
In his final season with the Bay, he became player-manager, enjoying success in his new role. During his first season in charge, Challinor led the club to second in the Northern Premier League Premier Division, before beating North Ferriby and FC United of Manchester in the play-offs to secure promotion to the National League North.
His success attracted the attention of NPL Division One North side AFC Fylde, and in November, 2011, he made the move to Mill Farm. In the space of three years, he led the Coasters to the National League North, where they were to spend the next three seasons, before achieving promotion to the National League in 2017.
After leaving Mill Farm, following eight successful seasons, Challinor was not out of work for long, joining up with Hartlepool United on November 11th, 2019. He proved an instant success in the North-East, guiding the Pools to play-off glory, beating Torquay United on penalties in the final.
However, after a strong start to life in the Football League, he surprised many by leaving his position and dropping down a division to take charge of Stockport.
In a statement, he said: “The chance to return to County and help make club history was too good an opportunity to miss.”
A win for Altrincham on Monday could lift the Robins as high as 14th in the table, while a win for Stockport could move them up to fourth, above Notts County, Boreham Wood, Wrexham and Dagenham & Redbridge.
Last five league games
Altrincham: DLLLD (F4 A11)
Stockport County: WWLWW (F16 A4)
What are they saying?
Stockport boss Challinor spoke after the Hatters’ narrow 1-0 win over Solihull on December 28th.
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 Kids Disco Parties
The commentary team is Brian Flynn, Jonny Crowther, Mark Simpson and Phil Brennan.
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
Match Centre: https://bit.ly/3sMSltZ
*Goal .. Jamie Morgan looks on as A-Jay Leitch-Smith (out of picture) fires home Alty's late reply. Photo by Michael Ripley.
John Edwards reports on Altrincham 1 Stockport County 4
It’s not that much of a comfort after such a difficult night, but Altrincham can at least console themselves in the knowledge they won’t have to worry about Stockport County next season.
While retaining Vanarama National League status is uppermost in Alty minds after this chastening experience, trading theirs for a return to the Football League is all that matters to big-spending County.
And who’s to say they won’t do it? No-one in a bumper sell-out crowd of 3,900 at The J.Davidson Stadium on a bitterly cold Tuesday night, that’s for sure.
They’ve still got ground to make up on the leaders, have Dave Challinor’s multi-talented team, but that is unlikely to present too much of a problem, if we see many more examples of the masterclass that did for Alty.
Phil Parkinson will look at the way the game turned in the space of 60 seconds early on, and how his side contributed to their own downfall at times, but credit where it’s due - Stockport were irresistible, outstanding in all facets of the game.
Strong and powerful enough to match the most physical teams in the league, they have a quicksilver passing style that Alty struggled to live with and a speed of thought and deed that put them out on their own as the best side to visit Moss Lane this season.
Two goals clear by half-time, they put another two past an overworked Robins defence in the second half before Alty substitute A-Jay Leitch-Smith reduced the arrears in added time.
And yet, it might just have been a different story but for two goalmouth incidents, one at either end, separated by no more than 30 seconds in the sixth minute.
Stockport keeper Ben Hinchliffe’s momentum took him outside his area as he attempted to chest the ball down and clear it, and he suddenly found himself stranded as Dan Mooney nipped in to nudge it past him.
With defenders hurrying back to try and protect an otherwise-unguarded net, Mooney looked up and picked out Josh Hancock, who turned and swept the ball goalwards, only for Stockport skipper Liam Hogan to save the day for the visitors.
Hogan was the only player to have made it all the way to the line, but he found himself perfectly placed to block Hancock’s shot and hack it to safety.
What a let-off for the promotion-chasers, and they wasted no time capitalising on their good fortune, as they went straight up the pitch and went in front, as a left-wing cross was hooked back from beyond the far post for Antoni Sarcevic to force home.
County went close twice in the space of five minutes soon after, as Scott Quigley steered a great chance wide and Paddy Madden headed straight at Tony Thompson, and they were convinced they should have had a penalty in the 30th minute.
Quigley was incensed with both the referee and a well-placed linesman for failing to share his view that Tom Hannigan had clipped his heels as he darted through a gap on the right of the area.
The vantage point from the gantry certainly suggested he had been hard done by, but any sense of grievance dissipated in the 44th minute when Will Collar advanced unchallenged before unleashing a drive that left Thompson rooted to the spot as it swerved beyond him into the top corner.
If it was a bodyblow, conceding a second goal so close to half-time, going even further behind barely five minutes into the second half effectively finished the game as a contest.
A misplaced pass by Kennedy Digie, under pressure as he tried to play out from the back, was quickly seized on and switched to Collar, who was upended by Andy White’s challenge inside the area.
There was no leniency from referee Lewis Smith this time, and Madden calmly stepped up to send Thompson the wrong way from the spot.
It became 4-0 in the 66th minute, when Ryan Croasdale headed home a right-wing cross, and there was a distinct possibility at this point that County could emulate, at least, the five goals they chalked up on Boxing Day and inflict some serious harm on Alty morale.
But to the Robins’ credit, they showed a willingness to dig in and limit the damage, and it brought a belated reward as, after Hancock fired narrowly over, Leitch-Smith burst through on the right of the area and lashed a shot into the roof of the net from a tight angle in the last of the three added minutes.
Safeguarding National League status is the main focus for Alty now, and there won't be too many tears shed if Stockport achieve their objective and remove themselves from the Robins' fixture list next season.