This is an extended version of an article Press and Media Officer John Edwards has submitted for inclusion in this week’s Sale and Altrincham Messenger.
Phil Parkinson insisted Altrincham were heading in the right direction after a 3-2 defeat at promotion favourites Kidderminster that both managers hailed as ‘a great advert for non-League football.’
Despite conceding in the first minute and trailing 3-1 at half-time, Alty frequently had their full-time hosts on the back foot and were desperately unlucky not to salvage a point after having strong penalty appeals waved away and hitting the post through James Poole in stoppage time.
Relieved Kidderminster boss Neil MacFarlane hailed Alty’s performance as ‘fantastic’, and there were no arguments from opposite number Parkinson, as he said: ‘We have gone toe-to-toe with a full-time team whose wage bill is probably double ours, and we have dominated them for long spells.
‘We are devastated with the result, because we didn’t deserve it, but that seems to have happened a few times this season. I hope people still believe in what we are doing and that we are not far away from being a very good team.
‘That is what I am hearing from people, and I said to the players that if they needed any confirmation, our supporters provided it with their reaction at the end. Seeing them come down to the front of the stand and cheer the boys off like that was a lasting memory I will take from the game. I just wish we could have given them the result the performance deserved.
‘Kidderminster have got some exceptional players, but I think anyone watching that would say we looked an exceptional team. In fact, they would have been wondering which of the teams were full time. They are the best team we have faced this season by a country mile and you could see the difference between the sides we faced last season and those we’re coming up against now, in terms of quality of forward play, organisation, fitness and stamina.
‘That was so evident, particularly Dan Bradley, who was outstanding and the best I’ve seen at this level or probably even the level above. He shouldn’t be playing in this division. That shows what we were up against, yet we dominated possession and the game, and I’ve got to be encouraged by that.
‘I don’t want to harp on about the referee, because he didn’t do too much wrong, but he missed a blatant penalty for a foul on Josh Hancock, and these things can change games. Everyone in the ground knew it was a penalty, including the Kidderminster bench, and we could have gone on to win it, never mind draw, if it had been given.
‘That was frustrating, but I can take a lot of heart from the performance, and it summed it up for me that the header against the post at the end was from James Poole. He’s not exactly known for his heading, for one thing, and he could have sulked or spat his dummy out at not starting. But he was so desperate to get something out of the game for us he stuck his head in where others wouldn’t. That’s how much it meant to him.’
Jordan Hulme’s eye condition will be closely monitored ahead of Alty’s FA Cup tie against Bradford (Park Avenue) at The J.Davidson Stadium on Saturday.
‘I’m sure a lot of people would have been wondering why Jordan didn’t start, but he is still struggling with his eyes and could not cope with the bright sunlight,’ said Parkinson. ‘With 30 minutes left, I asked him if he could tolerate it with half the pitch in shade, and he said he would give it a go.
‘He can’t wear his contact lenses, because that aggravates it even more, so it is a problem, but I’m hoping it will clear up in time. He is having a lot of trouble with it, and it is hurting us when he can’t play. We will have to see how he is as the week progresses.
‘We will hopefully be able to get Shaun Densmore back in training this week, though he has been struggling with a foot problem, and Simon Richman should be back training as well after a slight hamstring twinge. After that, it’s just a case of getting James Poole fully fit, and we are trying to find ways of doing that, because you could see against Kidderminster how he can make a difference.
‘He’s not yet at the stage where we can start him, because other lads are ahead of him on the fitness front, but if you’ve got a fully fit James Poole, you’ve got a matchwinner. He knows where he’s at and what is needed to get to the fitness level required for a starting place.’