Altrincham v Boreham Wood
Saturday 28th January 2023, 3.00pm
J Davidson Stadium, Vanarama National League
The Wood return to league action looking to bounce back from their elimination from the FA Cup last time out, with a trip to Greater Manchester where they will take on Altrincham.
IN FOCUS: ALTRINCHAM
Since 1911, Altrincham have been playing in lower-tier regional and national leagues and regularly finished mid-table. However, under the guidance of manager Phil Parkinson, the Robins look like they may have a crack at the play-offs and as a result a potential chance at reaching the Football League for the first time, with just three points separating them from seventh placed Bromley. Alty have enjoyed a rapid rise over the last half-decade, with back-to-back relegations in 2015 and 2016 seeing them in the Northern Premier League, but Parkinson oversaw a title-winning campaign to see them bounce straight back before successive fifth place finishes in the National League North saw them return to the fifth tier at the second time of asking.
Two years of consolidation has allowed the Robins to build towards a challenge towards the top end of the table, although they have needed to recruit adequately following the departure of star man Ryan Colclough to divisional rivals Chesterfield. Alty have made a number of positive acquisitions, with a whopping 31 new faces at the J Davidson Stadium including Jake Cooper, Egli Kaja, Connor Jennings, Michael Gyasi, Aaron Bennett, James Jones, Oliver Byrne and Josh Lundstram, while Chris Conn-Clarke has extended his loan from Fleetwood Town along with captain Jordan Hulme who made his loan move permanent. They have subsequently enjoyed their best first half of a season since their promotion-winning campaign in 2020/21, and will be looking to at least finish in the top half of the fifth tier for the first time since 1995/96.
LAST TIME OUT
Chesterfield 1-0 Altrincham
Tuesday 24th January 2023
Vanarama National League
Altrincham’s ten-game unbeaten run came to an end after Ashley Palmer got on the end of a corner to win it for Chesterfield at the death.
The Robins impressed in the first half and battled well with the promotion hopefuls, although it was the Spireites who produced the first opening with Ollie Banks picking out Bailey Clements who’s poor control meant the chance broke down. Alty quickly began to gain a foothold of proceedings and created a couple of opportunities themselves, with Chris Conn-Clarke and Jordan Hulme both going close to an opener before Ollie Byrne was tested at the other end, when Liam Mandeville was denied a certain goal after forcing the Alty stopper into a flying save. Phil Parkinson’s men continued to have the better of things though, and could have taken the lead on multiple occasions with Miles Welch-Hayes having a couple of chances to notch a debut goal before Marcus Dinanga and Hulme both went close, and the visitors will have been the more disappointed of the two sides when the referee brought an entertaining first half to a close.
Chesterfield came out all guns blazing at the start of the second half, peppering the Alty defence with attempts at goal as they looked to break the deadlock, the most notable of these being when Mike Jones forced Byrne into another outstretched save. The Robins were quickly under the cosh, but soon started to regain control after Conn-Clarke tested Lucas Covolan following a rapid counter-attack, and another lighting break led by Isaac Marriott almost ended with Hulme making the breakthrough, but a poor decision saw the chance break down with the Alty skipper being crowded out. Ex-Robin Ryan Colclough soon entered the fray and got involved within a minute when he both set up a shooting chance and had one himself, before Byrne had to be at his best to deny Banks once more. Unfortunately for Alty, they would soon suffer heartbreak as Palmer met the resulting corner to flash a header into the back of the net, giving the hosts a late winner.
Chesterfield (A) L1-0
Maidenhead United (H) W3-2
Wrexham AFC (H) W2-2 (4-3 on pens)
FC Halifax Town (A) D2-2
FC Halifax Town (H) W2-1
Curzon Ashton (H) W1-0
The Robins are enjoying an improved season compared to their previous campaigns, and look on course for a chance to break into the play-offs based off their recent form which has seen them unbeaten in ten outings. Alty were able to continue their streak even when taking their eye off National League action, with a narrow victory seeing them overcome Curzon Ashton in the FA Trophy before stretching their run to seven games after Chris Conn-Clarke’s late winner against FA Halifax Town. This was followed up by a draw in the reverse fixture on to kick-off the new year, but they bounced back to winning ways via a penalty shootout after a 2-2 draw with Wrexham AFC in the FA Trophy Fourth Round, and reached a decade of games unbeaten against Maidenhead United. Unfortunately, their good streak had to come to an end eventually, with Ashley Palmer stealing the win late on last time out.
IN THE DUGOUT: PHIL PARKINSON
After turning out for Crewe Alexandra, Reading, Port Vale and Nantwich Town as a player, Phil Parkinson took over a managerial role with the latter where he found success over a two-year spell. He departed for Altrincham at the end of the 2016/17 season and won the Northern Premier League in his first full season, before reaching the National League North play-offs in 2018/19. Although this was unsuccessful, he guided them to promotion a year later, with Parkinson leaving his job as a sports science lecturer last year to take the over reins at Alty full time.
ONE TO WATCH: CHRIS CONN-CLARKE
Northern Ireland youth international Chris Conn-Clarke caught the eye whilst playing for Belfast-based clubs Linfield and Glentoran, making his senior debut for the latter after being offered a scholarship by Burnley in 2017. The Clarets would pick him up a year later on a two-year scholarship and he gained experience on loan at Chorley, but he primarily featured in the academy during his time at Turf Moor. He would later make a permanent switch to Fleetwood Town after three years in Lancashire, signing an 18-month deal in February 2021 but he has only made a handful of appearances for the Fisherman, completing a loan move to Altrincham a year after he arrived at the Highbury Stadium. and he has remained at Moss Lane since.
LAST TIME WE MET
Boreham Wood 1-1 Altrincham
Saturday 27th August 2022
Vanarama National League
The Wood were unable to make it two wins in a row as goals either side of half time from Aaron Bennett and Lee Ndlovu secured a 1-1 draw with Altrincham.
The hosts dominated possession throughout the first half but were unable to create a meaningful opportunity, with the first real chances of the game falling to Ryan Colclough as the ever-dangerous forward looked to give Alty the lead. The visitors were looking positive, but the hosts will have been disappointed to not break the deadlock with Zak Brunt, Jack Payne and Erico Sousa all looking to force the ball over the line from Dion Kelly-Evans’ dangerous cross, before Tyrone Marsh saw a couple of shots fly over the crossbar. Chances continued to dry up as the half progressed and the two sides will have thought they were set to go into the interval goalless, however the Robins would take the lead against the run of play with little time remaining of the first half, as Bennett’s solo run ended with him rolling the ball over the line deep into stoppage time.
Keen to get straight back into it, the Wood got off to a lightening quick start in the second half as Marsh stood up a cross that needed to be headed behind with Josh Rees ready to pounce, but the subsequent corner flew to the back post where Ndlovu was waiting unmarked to tap home his first competitive goal for the club. Similarly to the first half, clear chances were very much at a premium in an evenly-matched affair and there was little in the way of action, but Egli Kaja made a clear impact after coming on with the Albanian setting up Toby Mullarkey, who was unable to keep his shot down. The Robins would go even closer as the game entered the final ten minutes with Marcus Dinanga smashing the ball against the crossbar with Nathan Ashmore beaten, and the game would begin to liven up some more with Will Evans and Dennon Lewis flashing efforts off target. This would be followed by Dinanga having an effort deflected over the crossbar in injury time, moments before the referee brought a close to proceedings with the two sides level.
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