14 Aug 2019 by Dan Connor

JJ gem just the job for jubilant Robins

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*Corker, Connor .. a brilliant, unstoppable half-volley from Connor Hampson is on its way into the net to put Alty 1-0 up. Picture by Michael Ripley.

Altrincham secured their first win of the new season on Tuesday evening, as they came out 3-2 victors over Alfreton Town at The J.Davidson Stadium, in what was a close-fought battle between the two sides.

Two first-half goals from Connor Hampson and James Jones, followed by a wonderful strike by John Johnston towards the tail end of the game, were enough to defeat a resilient Alfreton side.

Manager Phil Parkinson made three changes to the team that drew 1-1 with Gloucester last Saturday, with Sean Williams and Nathan Arnold coming into the starting XI, along with last season's top scorer Josh Hancock, who played  his first game back after serving a three-match suspension.

It was Alty with the first effort of the game, as Andy White found Johnston on the edge of the box, but the winger's curled shot fell straight to Alfreton keeper, Jack Atkinson who made a comfortable save.

Atkinson was called into action once again shortly after, following a low strike from Jordan Hulme. Simon Richman did well to nod the ball down to Hulme, who swivelled and unleashed a shot that Atkinson diverted on to the post and out for a corner.

However, the Alfreton shot-stopper stood no chance of keeping out Hampson’s thunderous effort on the 23rd minute mark. The Altrincham full-back struck a powerful half-volley on the edge of the box which flew like a guided missile through a crowded  box and into the back of the net.

But the 1-0 lead was short-lived, with the visitors finding an equaliser just 10 minutes later via a Danny Clarke tap-in. A headed ball across the face of the goal fell to Clarke, who flicked home an opportunity that was just about impossible to miss.

Shortly after, in the 37th minute, Altrincham were awarded a free-kick, following a reckless tackle by Ryan Qualter on Hulme, which saw the Alfreton man go into the book. After a short break for treatment to Hulme, Johnston  stepped up to float the kick beyond the far post, where Jones, the Robins' unexpected top scorer thus far, hooked home his third goal in four games to make it 2-1.

At the other end of the pitch, almost immediately, it was Alfreton who were awarded a free-kick, though the decision was met with uproar from the visiting side, who were adamant that the challenge that was deemed a foul had taken place inside the area.

Despite making their feelings towards referee Daniel Locker crystal clear, his original decision remained the same, and Bobby Johnson took responsibility for the shooting opportunity on the very edge of the Alty box.

A brilliant curled effort by Johnson rebounded off the post to Daniel East, whose strike from the edge of the area was blocked and cleared after some brilliant defending by Alty, with one player after another putting his body on the line.

Trailing 2-1 at the break, it seems whatever Alfreton boss Billy Heath said to his players at half-time had a profound effect, with the Reds grabbing an equaliser minutes into the second half.

Joshua Clackstone delivered a cross into the Alty box, finding East, who initially attempted a header before the ball fell to his feet, where, from a yard out, he finished emphatically past Drench.

Alfreton came close to going ahead for the first time on the hour-mark, after a short run towards goal from Josh Wilde ended with a well-taken strike, but Drench was there to pull off a good save and parry the ball out.

Hancock almost marked his return in typical Hancock style, with his brilliant overhead kick falling just wide of the post. Johnston's drive deflected off an Alfreton defender high into the air towards Hancock, who showed great technique to execute an overhead shot from about 15 yards, an airborne effort that, had it gone in, would surely have kept him in contention for a second successive Goal of the Season award for the duration of the campaign.

But Johnston wasted no time registering a contender of his own, with a superb, inch-perfect strike in the 85th minute. With the ball just outside the area, it was an excellent finish from JJ which flew into the top left corner, raising the roof of The J.Davidson Stadium.

Eager to find their third equaliser, Alfreton did come close with a dangerous ball played across the face of the Altrincham goal, but Hampson successfully cleared his lines to ensure the game finished 3-2.

Altrincham are back in action on Saturday, as they travel to Brackley Town, where Parkinson and his side will look to follow up their first win of the season with their first three points on the road.


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