*Top man Toby .. recent signing Toby Mullarkey brings the ball clear after winning possession. Picture by Michael Ripley.
Altrincham concluded their build-up to the new campaign with a well-fought 2-0 victory over local neighbours Trafford, in what has become an annual pre-season meeting between the two sides.
Goals from Tom Peers and Josh Hancock were enough to overcome a difficult Trafford side in an action-packed and exciting game of end-to-end football.
It was a convincing start from the home team, firing two close calls towards the Altrincham goal early on. Jordan Wynne struck a terrific shot from some distance out which beat Tony Thompson but bounced back off the post.
Darius Palma, one of the six former Robins in the Trafford squad, came close with the second after swivelling and turning in the Altrincham box before eventually finding a shooting opportunity but placing his shot over the crossbar.
With the two warning signs fortunately squandered, Altrincham started to get into the game and create a number of goal scoring chances. Matt Chadwick came close with a well-struck effort, after a swift turn followed by a direct pass from Max Harrop found the winger, but a good save from Matt Cooper saw the ball parried out for a corner.
An excellent piece of defending from Toby Mullarkey and Andy White followed, preventing The North from going one-nil up. Trafford’s Harry Sheridan rose above White, heading the ball to Palma, who tried to weave his way past Mullarkey and White as he drove towards goal, but some well-executed defending between the pair saw Tony Thompson scoop up the ball and prevent the shot.
Chadwick came agonisingly close to giving Alty the lead once again in the 26th minute, but a superb save from Cooper denied him, as the keeper tipped his effort over the bar. Altrincham trialist Lewis Walters went on a darting run down the left flank, skipping past Sheridan before unleashing an impressive cross towards Chadwick, whose effort brought the best out of the Trafford shot-stopper.
Not long after, however, Sheridan was down at the other end of the pitch, this time delivering crosses of his own. The 19-year-old former Robin clipped an inviting ball into the box, finding the head of Joel Amado, whose powerful header at goal was expertly kept out by Thompson, forcing the Alty keeper to react instantly.
There was more excellent goalkeeping in the 39th minute with Cooper being called into action once again. Hancock, on the edge of the box, slipped the ball into Harrop who, after cleverly letting the ball run past him, took his shot on goal before being denied by Cooper’s cat-like reflexes.
However, the Trafford number one was eventually beaten, following a well-constructed move by Phil Parkison’s men a minute before half-time. Hancock laid the ball off to Peers who, on the edge of the box, struck an unerring shot into the bottom left corner, leaving Cooper very little chance to keep it out.
The start of the second half mirrored the first, with both teams creating chances from the off. Wynne’s early effort curled just over the bar, while Shaun Densmore struck a long-range shot on goal that narrowly missed the target.
Harrop, who scored an incredible free-kick against Atherton Collieries in Altrincham’s fourth pre-season friendly, attempted to recreate his wonder goal with another strike from a similar distance out. However, the ball sailed inches wide, as it glided past the post and out for a goal-kick.
But it wasn’t long before another Alty attempt ended up in the back of the net. Walters slipped the ball to Hancock, who did well to shuffle and get the ball on his right foot, before his shot on target took a deflection and fell past Cooper, making it 2-0 in the 54th minute.
Trafford came very close to grabbing one back soon after, following a long ball into the Alty box which found the head of Lewis Salmon, but the unmarked forward failed to put it past Thompson.
Altrincham had a strong penalty shout after Chadwick was brought down in the box after blatantly having his shirt pulled, but referee Nik Storey waved away any Altrincham protests as play carried on.
Despite the two-goal deficit and time quickly ticking away, Trafford continued to push for a goal of their own, coming close again with yet another header. Declan Rydings latched on to a cross that fell deep into the Alty box but was unable to squeeze the ball past Thompson.
Altrincham’s last chance of the game came form Jordan Hulme after Dontai Gabidon cleverly flicked the ball over the Trafford back line before Hulme, on the half volley, struck a powerful shot that narrowly missed the target as the score remained 2-0.
After a long wait, Altrincham are finally back in action for this year’s 2019/20 Vanarama National League North campaign on Saturday afternoon. The Robins welcome title favourites York City to The J Davidson Stadium, in what is a highly-anticipated start for Parkinson’s men.