*Cheers, Peers .. there's nothing veteran defender Steve McNulty can do to stop Tom Peers adding another goal to his Bootham Crescent collection and confirming Alty's place in the play-off final next weekend. Picture by Michael Ripley.
Altrincham press and media officer John Edwards spoke to manager Phil Parkinson moments after Saturday's 2-0 play-off semi-final win over York City at Bootham Crescent. Here is the interview in full.
Q: After three straight 1-0 wins here, people wondered whether we could possibly do it a fourth time, but we’ve gone one better by winning 2-0. That’s some achievement, isn’t it?
A: It’s a great result, and it was a great performance to achieve it. You always need an element of luck, and York should have scored in the opening couple of minutes and also in the opening minutes of the second half.
Equally, you could say we should have scored lots more than we did, but it certainly wasn’t an Alty-dominated game. It was an end-to-end game in which our counter-attacking football was outstanding and our front three were superb.
On top of that, we defended resolutely, and when you look at someone like Toby Mullarkey, that reflects so well on him. He has come into the team and done exactly what we expected of him. Everyone has been looking at me and asking me what I’m going to do, now James Jones has left. Well, we believed in Toby, and he has paid us back today, because he was up against some top forwards and has come through with flying colours. He really stepped up to the plate.
I’d also say Tony Thompson was an absolute colossus in goal today. Some of the hits he took were incredible, but he just kept bouncing back up and performing brilliantly. He took hits from their players and even ours, but it didn’t make any difference. I thought he was actually knocked out at one point, but he just got up and got on with it.
They call him the silverback, and he has just shown why. He is built so well, and he does everything for us, in terms of his distribution and everything else. I can’t speak highly enough of Tommo. I can’t sing his praises highly enough today.
Q: He looked to have a real struggle on his hands when Steven Drench arrived, but he has seized his opportunity with both hands since Steven was injured, hasn’t he?
A: This is why competition is so important. At the end of the day, Drenchy comes in, and Tommo can either shrink or step up to the plate, and he has stepped up to the plate. He has done exceptionally well. The biggest thing for me is Tony wants to be here. He wants to play for Altrincham. He absolutely adores the place. Every now and then, he’s had a bit of stick, unjustifiably in my view. But I’ll tell you what, he has rammed it down everyone’s throat with what he has done this season, and last season as well, because he has shown what a top keeper he is at this level.
Q: It was great play by Dan Mooney to set up the opener for Josh Hancock, wasn’t it?
A: Dan Mooney has been a breath of fresh air after lockdown, and some of the stuff he has done shows exactly why we brought him to the club. We went the extra mile to do that, and I think he is going to be a massive player for Alty. I’m excited to see exactly what levels he can actually hit, because I don’t think we are yet seeing anywhere near Dan’s true potential. He was a real threat today. Every time he got the ball, he looked like he was going to beat his man and make something happen. He showed great energy again and was fantastic for us.
Q: Dan and Connor Hampson both got favourable mentions after the Chester game and were both to the fore again today, weren’t they?
A: Connor looked really fresh, didn’t he? Even at the end of the game, he was surging past their wing-back. He made him look like he was treading water at times, so a fantastic amount of credit needs to go to Connor for the way he has maintained his fitness levels through lockdown. He is in the best condition I have ever seen him in. The lads could see the opportunity we had when the play-offs were put back on, and, up to now, they have taken it with both hands.
Q: Tom Peers was Johnny-on-the-spot for the second goal - I imagine he’ll be distraught at the prospect of not playing at Bootham Crescent again, won’t he?
A: He does like scoring goals here. His last finish here was outstanding - a great touch and unstoppable shot into the top corner. This time, he was Johnny-on-the-spot, as you say, but you have to be in the right position, and it was another important goal for us.
Q: How pleased were you that we restricted as good a team as York to relatively few genuine scoring opportunities?
A: York look to get the ball wide and get it in the box, and that is something we were very aware of. We knew what their strengths were, with regard to Sean Newton striding out with the ball, so we tried to limit that as much as possible. I’m not going to give away all the little things we planned in advance, but it did work. We reduced them to very little, in terms of their ability to cross the ball into the box.
David Ferguson, on the left, is absolutely brilliant at that. He was the reason they beat us at our place, and I thought he was going to do it again with some of his delivery in the first half. We were even contemplating changing our shape. We don’t normally do that, but he was that good. In the opening exchanges, he was a real threat, but we managed to get on top of that, and I thought Andy White ate him up in the second half.
Q: Jordan Hulme had an interesting tussle with Steve McNulty. There aren’t many forwards who get much change out of McNulty, but Jordan was a handful, wasn’t he?
A: I thought Jordan tied all three of them up. He made three top centre-halves, in McNulty, Newton and Joe Tait, look ordinary at times. We are talking about really good central defenders as well. You can’t have a more high-profile defender than McNulty. Steve Watson brought him in to win promotion, and they weren’t far off. Steve has created a really good team here. When you look at how they were when we first played them after coming up, it’s a real contrast to how they are now.
Q: It’s Boston United in the final, and that is clearly going to be another tough test, isn’t it?
A: Boston are the most improved team this year. Compared to last year, the recruitment they have done, particularly lads coming in from Harrogate, has improved them no end, and of course we owe them one after they gave us a roasting at their place earlier this season. I think that is when we were at our weakest - in fact, that game was probably the turning point for our season. We are looking forward to the game, but we know we are going to have to be at our very best.
Q; Entering the play-offs required quite a financial commitment, which can increase the pressure on the players, so you must be pleased with how they have handled it so far?
A: We asked the fans to back us with contributions, which doesn’t sit easy with me, but we are a community club and we do rely heavily on them. They have rallied round as they always do and supported us, so it was important that, whatever we did today and regardless of the result, we showed up and made sure we gave everything.
Ever since Neil and I came here, that is one thing people can see about this Altrincham team. As well as the brand of football we want to play, the lads absolutely die for each other on the pitch, and that is something the fans want to see and need to see. Now and again, we may let ourselves down, but more often than not, we give them something to go home and be very proud of.
Q: Did having a competitive game last weekend make a difference, do you think?
A: Without a doubt. I always thought that whoever won the eliminators would have an advantage in the semi-finals. It was good to have that Chester game behind us, and it was great to see all the players contribute so much to what was an outstanding win. To come here and do that in what could be the last game played at this stadium feels really special. It is an absolutely unbelievable achievement for a club like Alty, and I’m proud of every single one of the players for making it happen. We have now got a fantastic opportunity next Saturday that we want to exploit. We will be giving it our best.