It was a fair old trek to the far side of Lincolnshire, but it was worth it for those Altrincham fans who clocked up the miles and again provided outstanding support in an excellent 2-1 win at Boston United. It could be said it was H for Happy for all concerned, as Alty director BILL WATERSON explains in his round-up of all the weekend action.
The first Saturday set of fixtures of 2019 in the Vanarama National League North are now in the bag, and the twists and turns that have made it such an intriguing battle for promotion places so far continued apace.
One of the day’s main bullet points at Boston United’s Jakemans Stadium was the unveiling of a new Alty song by our 70-strong travelling contingent, who outsang the home fans for long periods of the game and helped carry the Robins over the line for a much-needed and much-deserved 2-1 win.
The two-goal half-time lead could have been a significantly bigger, but for a string of excellent saves from home keeper George Willis that prevented Alty running away with it and unsurprisingly earned him the man-of-the-match award. Boston converted a penalty 10 minutes from time and applied some late pressure in a tense finale, but Alty saw the game out in assured fashion to wrap up the points and return to winning ways.
It was good to see Jordan Hulme, the subject of the new song, back among the goals on his second appearance after returning from suspension, and Josh Hancock was also on the mark. Spot the common denominator there? Yes, it’s the initial – amazingly, our last 10 goals have been scored by players whose surnames begin with H! Alty climb to sixth after this win, with Boston remaining 11th, seven points behind us.
The match of the day was undoubtedly at Edgeley Park between Stockport County and Bradford (Park Avenue). Stockport had won their last three, a sequence made all-the-more impressive by the fact this was their fourth consecutive game against a play-off contender. They were up to the challenge once more, with Matty Warburton firing them ahead after only six minutes, in front of over 4,100 spectators, and two second-half goals sealing a 3-0 scoreline.
Could Chorley take advantage at Hereford? Probably not as much as they would have liked. Josh O’Keefe put them in front early in the second half, but Hereford sensed an opportunity, after Magpies forward Louis Almond’s 82nd-minute dismissal, and duly seized it, as central defender Josh Gowling drove home an equaliser after 90+6 minutes. Chorley remain top on 48 points, three ahead of Bradford and four in front of Stockport.
AFC Telford United made it four consecutive wins, since their loss at The J.Davidson Stadium, with a 2-1 home victory over fellow-play-off contenders Spennymoor Town. Brendan Daniels gave the Bucks the lead, only for Glenn Taylor to restore parity with his 15th goal of the season, putting him out in front in the scoring charts, ahead of Jake Beesley (12) and our own Jordan Hulme and Josh Hancock (plus four others) on 11.
Parity lasted only six minutes, as Telford restored their advantage and retained it to remain fourth on 43 points, with Spennymoor dropping to seventh on 38, one place and one point behind ourselves.
Chester will be feeling good about their prospects after securing the permanent signing of Akwasi Asante for a club record fee after he scored four goals in his first two appearances. The ex-Tamworth striker has not featured in the opening week of this New Year due to injury, but Chester coped just fine without him at FC United of Manchester as they eased to a 2-0 win, despite being reduced to 10 men in the 70th minute, for their first success on the road since September. They occupy fifth place on 41 points.
Kidderminster Harriers dropped out of the play-off places, slipping to ninth in the process, after a 3-0 defeat at Darlington. Blyth Spartans’ 1-1 home draw with Alfreton leaves them in eighth position on 38 points, trailing Spennymoor on goal difference, while Kidderminster have 37. Brackley, in 10th, are still within striking distance of the play-offs after a 3-1 home win over Ashton United that boosted their tally to 36.
Boston (11th) are joined on 31 points by Leamington, who drew 1-1 at Guiseley, while there are three teams on the 30-mark, those being Darlington, Alfreton Town and a York City side whose season of ups and downs continued with a 1-0 defeat at Curzon Ashton.
Southport’s long unbeaten run continued, but it needed a 90th-minute equaliser at home to Nuneaton Borough to keep it intact, a 1-1 draw dropping the Sandgrounders one place to 16th on 29 points. Next, on 28, come Guiseley and Curzon Ashton. Hereford are 19th, with 25, just outside the relegation zone, but their draw with Chorley at least gives them a four-point buffer over FC United, on 21, followed by Ashton United (20) and Nuneaton (15).
There are two midweek games on Tuesday night, with Southport entertaining Guiseley and Spennymoor Town hosting Kidderminster Harriers. Next Saturday sees the second round of the Buildbase FA Trophy, with Blyth Spartans hosting Boreham Wood, AFC Telford travelling to Hartlepool United, Hereford at home to holders Brackley Town and Stockport County hosting Truro City. Spennymoor were due to play Bromley, but the Kentish side have been removed from the competition for playing an ineligible player. So, Sutton United will visit the north-east in their stead.
There are seven fixtures in the Vanarama National League North next Saturday, and the pick of the bunch is the game at Victory Park, where Alty will pit their wits against a Chorley side who have led the league for most of the season, as they do currently. Second-placed Bradford are home to FC United, while Chester host Guiseley. Kidderminster Harriers will look to move back into play-off territory, as Boston United visit Aggborough.