After Saturday’s fantastic 4-1 win against Weymouth at The Bob Lucas Stadium, the Robins will be looking to put down a marker against a Chesterfield side who are currently top of the Vanarama National League table.
Ahead of the game, Fred Welsman sat down with Kurt Bigg, Chesterfield reporter for the Non-League Paper. Check out the interview below to find out what lies in store for Alty against the in-form Spireites.
What is an outsider's perception of Altrincham FC?
When Altrincham came into the National League, I’ll admit that I didn’t know too much about them. I got to know more through a couple of friends who had nothing but good things to say about Alty.
I really enjoyed both games between the two sides last season, including my trip to The J. Davidson Stadium – even if it did result in John Pemberton’s dismissal. Those games and their performance in the league was really something to see and showed everyone, including Chesterfield fans, that Altrincham are not a team to take lightly.
What has it been like following Chesterfield for the past couple of years?
There’s been a lot of ups and downs in the past couple of seasons at Chesterfield FC. However, with Community Trust as owners and James Rowe at the helm as manager, things are firmly pointed in the right direction. A bright, young manager with a versatile and dangerous squad has the making for a dangerous force in the National League.
How were the transfer window and pre-season?
Previous transfer windows and pre-seasons have delivered failed promises for Chesterfield fans as they always seem to find their team languishing towards the bottom of the fifth tier – something that seemed impossible when the Blues reached the League One play-offs in 2015.
However, this season has been different. Signings that looked to have made a massive difference and brought pure quality to an already good squad. A difference in the type of players has allowed for different systems and a real excellence to the style of football played at the Technique Stadium.
For once, since the Spireites dropped into the fifth tier, there is nothing but optimism and positivity in North Derbyshire. Their faith has been rewarded and, going into the Alty game, they occupy top spot.
What were the hopes amongst the fanbase and club for the season?
I think the hopes at the Technique Stadium have always been promotion by any means and this season is no different. There is a genuine hope and belief that it can happen, and if injuries can stop (touch wood), then there is every chance that the Spireites can return to the EFL.
One thing that James Rowe loves to say though is that he doesn’t necessarily care where his side are in the table now; he cares where they are after the 44th and final game of the season. I’m sure that Spireite fans will hope that they are in top spot come that point.
How's your form been? You guys seem to be on a roll!
Considering that the team have had to deal with 10 or 11 players out with injuries and suspensions, I think Chesterfield’s form has been pretty magnificent – especially after defeat at Woking.
The Spireites have stopped the late goals against them, which haunted them during September. Chesterfield are amongst the top scorers in the league and have one of the best defences, which has the fans excited to see more, as hopes of a title challenge build.
What style of play do you guys play?
James Rowe and his side like to play a pressing game as they look to force their opponents into making a mistake high up the pitch.
On the ball, they like to move it fast and out to the flanks to cause trouble for the full-backs. That doesn’t mean they can’t play well through the middle, though, as there is a tough midfield three that can also bring flair into the attack.
Defensively, the Spireites are a tough side to break down, while, going forward, they are exciting and dangerous and will most likely cause trouble to any opposition.
Who are your key players and potential threats we should be keeping an eye out for?
The main threat obviously comes in the form of Kabongo Tshimanga, who is top of the National League scoring charts and is in scintillating form. He is a fantastic player both on and off the ball and is a natural goalscorer – both inside and outside the box.
However, Chesterfield pose more of a threat than just Tshimanga. New signings such as Saidou Khan, Jeff King and Scott Loach have added to an already stacked team. They possess technical skill and experience of this league, which is vital
There are also players on their way back from injury. Akwasi Asante, Jack Clarke, Gavin Gunning and Laurence Maguire are just a few of the fantastic players who have visited the treatment room for lengthy injuries and will, for sure, make an impact on their return.
So, Chesterfield’s threat comes from all over the place. They are fantastic as individuals but, as a team, they bring so much more to the table.
Prediction for the game?
James Rowe loves to say that ‘anybody can beat anybody in this league’, and he’s right. This is such a tough league and to try to predict what can happen is always very difficult.
However, I have got to back the Spireites, even if they do have 10 or so players out. Their quality, tactical awareness and steeliness is pretty much unmatched in this league. I’m going to go with a 2-0 win for Chesterfield, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Tshimanga on the scoresheet. I do expect it to be a tough game, though, and not an ‘easy’ 2-0 win.