Altrincham's build-up to the new season begins in earnest this weekend with two pre-season friendlies. Here, ED PAINTER brings you a preview of both games.
The Robins’ pre-season programme finally gets underway on Saturday with two games in quick succession, starting at The Step Places Stadium against West Didsbury & Chorlton, in a match kicking off at midday, and continuing at Ashton United three hours later.
The two fixtures, featuring different Alty squads, will be the first opportunity for supporters to see the club's brand new Puma kits in action, with the home kit on display against West Didsbury & Chorlton and away colours on show at Hurst Cross.
It also represents a return to action for Phil Parkinson’s men following a summer lay-off that came after they wound up their 2020/21 campaign with a 0-0 draw against Torquay United at The J.Davidson Stadium on May 29th in front of over 1,000 spectators.
You can watch the highlights of that game by pressing play below.
It has been an eventful summer for Alty, with extensive work taking place to ensure the new playing surface is in top shape and several comings and goings on the player front in a bid to hit the ground running and improve on a 17th place finish last season.
Yusifu Ceesay, Joe Piggott, Simon Richman, Alistair Smith, Lewis Salmon and James Hardy all departed, but Alty boss Parkinson acted quickly to balance the books by bringing in Brad Jackson, Marcus Dinanga, Connor Kirby, and Kennedy Digie, all of whom are set to feature this weekend.
To ensure that every member of the squad can get some game time under their belts, the Alty squad will be split in two, with some lining up against West Didsbury & Chorlton and others facing Ashton United, a game which kicks off later in the day at 3pm.
There will also be a number of reserve and junior players taking to the field, as well as one or two trialists who will be hoping to catch Parkinson’s eye.
Our Opponents (West Didsbury & Chorlton)
Founded in 1908 as Christ Church AFC, our first opponents on Saturday are a side that have responded well after relegation to the North West Counties League Division One South in 2019, sitting in the top half of the table the following two seasons.
However, after the Covid-19 pandemic brought a premature end to football below the National League for a second time last year, our hosts this weekend were denied the opportunity to finish what they started and compete for promotion.
The Manager (West Didsbury & Chorlton)
There will be a familiar face in the opposition dug-out, with West currently managed by Chris Rowley, Alty’s former reserve team manager, who took charge of our near-neighbours in December, 2019.
He worked at The J. Davidson Stadium from June, 2014 through to May, 2019, during which time his sides experienced two promotions before missing out on winning the Cheshire League by the narrowest of margins.
Prior to embarking on a career in coaching, Chris played as a goalkeeper at clubs across the North West, including Trafford and Kidsgrove. Since hanging up his boots, he has thrown himself head first into management, gaining a UEFA B licence.
Last Outing (West Didsbury & Chorlton)
In their last outing, with their pre-season preparations well underway, our hosts lost 4-1 at home to Northern Premier League Division One North West side Trafford, with West’s solo goal coming from dangerman Dontai Gabidon.
Our Opponents (Ashton United)
Founded in 1878 and located only a 30-minute drive from The J. Davidson Stadium, Ashton United are a side that had been a member of the National League as recently as 2019, after being crowned as Northern Premier League play-off champions.
However, relegated the very next season, our opponents are a side that will be looking to return to that level after a three-year absence, having struggled during the two previous Covid-interrupted campaigns.
The Manager (Ashton United)
Also known to many as the Robins, Ashton are currently managed by Michael Clegg, who took charge in November, 2019, having departed division rivals Atherton Collieries to take up the vacancy at Hurst Cross.
During his 300-game tenure with Atherton, Clegg really made a name for himself, taking the club from the 10th tier to the seventh tier within only five seasons. During that spell, Clegg won three league titles and also two cups.
Ahead of the 2021/22 campaign, Clegg has recruited impressively, signing former York City and FC Halifax Town forward Jack Redshaw as well as adding Tom Warren, Theo Hudson, Nicky Hunt and Harry Spratt to the ranks.
Last Outing (Ashton United)
In their last outing, our hosts on Saturday faced National League outfit Stockport County, losing 2-0 courtesy of goals from Liam Hogan and John Rooney. Before that, Ashton suffered pre-season defeats to Oldham Athletic and Crewe Alexandra, scoring twice but conceding seven.
West Didsbury & Chorlton
Listen to the game live on Radio Robins
You can listen to live commentary on Radio Robins and the broadcast starts at 11.55am. The commentary team is Mark Simpson and Daniel Burton,
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 Brian Flynn and John Edwards.
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'.
Connor Kirby drills a second half shot wide.
Photos: Jonathan Moore
Altrincham started the pre-season with a 1-0 defeat at West Didsbury & Chorlton, the game being settled by a goal that would have been considered calamitous in a National League game but can be viewed as a pre-season learning experience as Kennedy Digie's backpass wasn't dealt with by Matt Gould & crossed the line before the Alty keeper was able to recover.
Phil Parkinson & Neil Sorvel fielded a starting eleven comprising 4 new signings, 5 trialists & 2 players from last season's squad.
The substitutes included 4 Academy players & a further trialist.
A bright start by Alty was brought to an abrupt halt in the 9th minute by Digie's own goal & gave the North West Counties First Division South side a huge boost in their final pre-season game before their league campaign starts next Saturday with a trip to Alsager Town.
Unsurprisingly, their was little cohesion in the Robins' performance, although Brad Jackson (see photo below) went close to equalising with a deft effort that looped over former Alty keeper Andrew Jones but just cleared the bar & landed on the roof of the net.
The biggest disappointment of the game from Alty's perspective came just after the half hour mark, when Matt Gould fell awkwardly, sustaining a gluteal muscle injury. Following lengthy treatment from Ryan Murray (see photo below) Gould had to be replaced by former youth team goalkeeper, Liam Blackburn.
Alty dominated possession after the break but found it difficult to create chances against a well organised West defence.Connor Kirby, who put in an industrious performance, drilled a low shot just the wrong side of the post but Jones in the home side goal had a pretty straightforward afternoon, rarely being called into action.
After the game, Assistant Manager, Neil Sorvel said:-
"This game was always going to be tough as we have thrown 11 players in who haven't played together before, therefore those connections & combinations are not going to be there at the top end of the pitch & that's what we saw today".
West Didsbury & Chorlton:
1. Andrew Jones, 2. Matt Cook, 3. Connor Hancock, 4. Callum Jones, 5. Marcus Dibble, 6. Sam Heathcote, 7. Aarron Grewal, 8. Lee Gavin, 9. Ben Elliott, 10. Rhain Davis, 11. Dontai Gabidon. Subs: Tom Westall, Josh Tinker, Joel Swift, Alex Jackson, Billy Matthews, Jack Bailey, Jack Ryan