*Now you see him .. Nathan Arnold wriggles past a challenge to set up Alty's goal against Stockport County. Picture by Jonathan Moore.
Nathan Arnold has been backed to give Altrincham the X factor this coming season after showing glimpses of his matchwinning flair in their last two matches against Blackpool and Stockport County.
The former Lincoln City forward, snapped up by manager Phil Parkinson earlier this summer, hit the post with an opportunist 20-yard snapshot in Saturday's 2-1 win over Blackpool and set up Alty's goal in Tuesday night's 2-1 defeat to County with some eye-catching footwork.
As he prepared for his side's final two pre-season friendlies, against AFC Fylde at home this Saturday and away to Trafford next Tuesday, Alty boss Parkinson said: 'I brought Nathan here to give us that bit of X factor. People are used to seeing players here who can run past defenders or dribble round them, but with Nathan, I have recruited someone who will give us end product. He might seem quiet for periods of the game but when he shines, he shines brightly.
'He will create chances and stick them away, and you can see him growing into the environment at Altrincham with each game. He will produce something out of the blue, like the shot against the post and his part in our goal tonight. That is what he will do, that's what he will give us.'
Another recent signing, centre-back Toby Mullarkey, also impressed and appears to face a straight fight with James Jones for a starting place alongside Tom Hannigan for the league opener against York City a week on Saturday.
'He looked the part, bringing the ball out from the back, and he also looked very assured defensively,' said Parkinson. 'I think everyone can see we have three excellent centre-backs, and all will be fighting it out. It’s a case if who can be the more consistent out of those three. Three at the back could be an option as well, because they are all so mobile and comfortable on the ball. The three of them would make a formidable partnership. I'm not saying that's something I'm thinking of doing, but equally I'm not averse to the idea. We'll see.'
Reflecting on another positive performance that could easily have claimed Vanarama National League North champions Stockport's scalp, as well as League One Blackpool's, Parkinson added: 'I'm very happy with what I saw. I felt we should have had two or three goals in the first half. We had three one-on-one opportunities, so I was really happy with the way we stuck to the game plan and looked a real attacking threat. That's something we haven't done to Stockport in my time here, creating opportunities like that.
'We were the dominant force for the first part of the second half but lost a bit of our attacking momentum after making a load of changes. Even then, it took a shot from distance for a National League team to edge us, so we can take a lot of heart from the performance.
'For 70-75 minutes, I thought we were far superior and in complete control of the game. We looked really strong and convincing going forward and defending. If we can take that into the next game - another really tough one against AFC Fylde on Saturday - the lads are going to derive a great deal from it.
'We could have packed the pre-season programme with North-West Counties opponents and racked up some big scores, but I wanted us to be tested. I wanted a challenge for the players, and you can see how they are benefiting from it. I hope it is apparent to everyone how high we are pressing in these games and having a go at getting the win, rather than allowing teams to dictate to us. We've done that really well. The progression has been there game on game, and I can see us starting to click now.'
The Alty boss provided an update on striker Adam Morgan, who made his first appearance as a trialist in the second half against Stockport, Matt Chadwick, Lewis Walters and Callum Dolan.
'Adam has come in on trial today and is trying to get his career back on track,' he said. 'We are having a little look at him. It was a bit unfortunate for him, because the game switched soon after he went on, and he had to do a bit more defending than he might normally do, but it was nice to see he could follow the instructions we asked of him.
'I'm sure we will see more offensive play from him, if he wants to dig in and give it a go for the remaining two games. I'm not going to be so free with the minutes now, so he has to show what he can do in training and whenever he gets any opportunities.
'Matt is going to be here, and we will make a decision on him in the next week or so. He has been ever so professional, his fitness levels are great and he looked hungry for it when he came on in the second half. He is doing really well, and I'm really happy with him.
'I don't know how Lewis got on in his trial, but I will speak to him later this week. We will see how he got on and how things stand with him and take it from there. He needed a quick decision, but I couldn't give him one as quickly as he would have liked. For financial reasons, I can't make a decision like that based on a couple of showings. I need to see a little bit more, so we'll see how things are after speaking to him.
'On Callum, he won't be coming back to us. He wants to start every week and I can’t guarantee that. It doesn't work like that at Altrincham, but we obviously wished him all the best.'