By Gerry PrewettOn Saturday Bristol Rovers meet an Altrincham side who are in a fine run of form.
They have won four and drawn one of their last six games. That draw was in their last game at home to Forest Green Rovers. The 2-2 result belied the position of the two teams, with Forest Green in 5th spot and Alty in 15th place.
Jon Parkin's 21st goal for the season gave the away team the lead ith the 7th minute. unstoppable shot from outside the area, his ninth goal in seven games, gave Rovers an early lead. Alty keeper Stuart Coburn made a hash of an attempted punch and presented the ball to the big striker, who smashed the ball high into the net
The lead lasted only two minutes, and this time Forest Green were unconvincing at the back as they failed to deal with Nicky Clee’s long throw and the home team’s Kyle Perry pounced on a loose ball to level moments later, before Damian Reeves's 15th of the season put Altrincham ahead at the break, Lawrie’s low attempt cannoning fortuitously off a defender into the path of Reeves for a poacher’s finish.
The Forest Green leveller came somewhat out of the blue and owed a fair bit to fortune, Parkin’s attempted cross-field pass ricocheting into the path of James Marwood for a low cross that was turned home by the bearded Rob Sinclair, brother of Rovers Scott.
In the 73rd minute former Gas player Danny Coles, already carrying a first-half caution, tugged back Perry and was shown his second yellow card by referee Robert Jones.
Speaking after the game Forest Green Boss Ady Pennock said, "I thought we were the second best team for a good hour, I thought they played really well.”
"I was pleased to go in at 2-1 down, because they were on the front foot today. There are some games where you're on top and others where you're not and I'd like to give them a lot of credit because they deserve it."
Alty Boss Lee Sinnott said, “I thought the opening seven or eight minutes were like the first half at Macclesfield, but the remaining 38 were like the second half there, with us very much on the offensive. Forest Green are a dangerous animal, though, and even when they were down to 10 men, you still sensed they could punish any mistakes we made.”
“That’s why I was a little concerned by a couple of instances of defenders going a bit gung-ho in the last few minutes, trying to chase a win. Sometimes you can lose out doing that, so I was a bit annoyed to see it. But overall I can’t fault the players for what they are doing.”
“If I were to be hyper-critical, I thought we had opportunities where we might have been a bit more clinical. We do get into good positions and create chances, so maybe it just needs a bit more quality in that regard. Certainly, we had the better opportunities in this game. ‘If’ is a great word, but if our percentage level of converting chances was higher, we would have more points and be in an even better position in the table. Some of our approach work has been so good, and I can’t take the players to task for that.”
Much has been spoken about Rovers’ early season defeat at Altrincham on 16th August. It capped a horror opening to Rovers debut in the Conference and after one draw and two defeats it appeared the only way was up!
Damian Reeves put the hosts ahead early on when he fired a low shot past Steve Mildenhall. In the 64th minute the home team went 2-0 up when Reeves' wayward cross was deflected into his own net by Mark McChrystal. Lee Mansell nodded Rovers a consolation but they had Stuart Sinclair dismissed in added time for a professional foul.
Darrell Clarke was furious after the game, "We orchestrated our own downfall. We gave goals away again and we could have given away even more. It's not good enough and there's no hiding place. We've now got to all stand up and be counted and I've got to front that up. The fans are disappointed and rightly so. I expect a lot better."
Altrincham has a long history as a club, when they were actually founded remains a question. The Altrincham AFC came into place in 1903. In 1891 Rigby Memorial Club, formed from a local Sunday school. They went on to merge with another local club know as the "Grapplers" to form Broadheath F.C. and become founder members of the Manchester League in 1893. Prior to 1903 the club played on a variety of fields in Broadheath, West Timperley and Altrincham before acquiring a new home at Pollitt's Field and, at the same time, changing their name to Altrincham AFC
In 1968–69 Altrincham joined The Northern Premier League (NPL) as founder members and remained there for 11 seasons until they joined the Alliance Premier League (now the Football Conference) as founder members at the beginning of the 1979–80 season, going on to win the league in its first two seasons. Despite their success Altrincham failed to gain election to the Football League on both occasions due to the voting system in place at the time. In 1980, Altrincham fell short of election to the Football League by the narrowest of margins.
It wasn't until 1987 that automatic promotion was awarded to the league; since then Altrincham have only challenged for promotion in the 1990–91 season, eventually finishing 3rd behind Barnet and Colchester United.
Altrincham never regained their success of the 1970s and 1980s and in 1997 they were relegated from the top flight of non-league football to the Northern Premier League for the first time in their history. They won that the NPL title two years later, only to go back down again after just one season in the Conference. It was five years before they gained promotion again, in 2005 as winners of the Conference North/Conference South playoffs beating Eastbourne Borough of Conference South at The Britannia Stadium in the final match.
Altrincham were uniquely reprieved from relegation for three successive seasons (2005–06, 2006–07 and 2007–08) as a result of other clubs' issues. The 2008–09 season proved to be a much better campaign for Altrincham, with the club spending much of the season in mid-table, and they eventually achieved safety from relegation with two games to spare. Altrincham did even better in 2009–10, challenging for a play-off spot early in the campaign and finishing in a relatively safe 14th place.
The club had a poor start to the 2010–11 season, earning only one point from their first eight games, which resulted in the sacking of long-time manager Graham Heathcoate in September. Ken McKenna replaced Heathcoate and the team's form gradually improved as the season went on, but their awful start cost them in the end and they were relegated in 22nd place on the final day of the season.
Former Farsley Celtic and Port Vale manager Lee Sinnott became the club's new manager for the Conference North Campaign and guided them to promotion last season. Recently Sinnott has added his son, former Huddersfield Town midfielder Jordan, to his squad.
The 21-year-old was released by the Terriers on 2 February after making just five appearances for the Championship side. Sinnott had a loan spell at Altrincham during the 2012-13 season and scored once in 10 outings for League Two side Bury last term.
Sinnott Senior said, ‘We’ve got a small squad, and when you consider the positions Jordan can play, he will bring some adaptability, which is important. He is comfortable in central midfield or on the right, and that’s just in a 4-4-2.”
“He can fill different roles in other systems as well, and a bi-product of that is that having that extra option can help preserve Simon Richman’s energy, which is so important to us. We haven’t got mega-bucks to throw around, but he’s with us to the end of the season, and it’s good to have a bit more strength in depth. He has been here before, so, just as we know him, he knows the club and the level of football, albeit it a division higher than last time. Given that, and the versatility he brings, it ticks the right boxes.’"