After a first half in which Rangers could have led but for a couple of superb blocks by goalkeeper Thompson, Alty upped their game after the interval to record a sixth successive away win in the league. Jordan Hulme rounded the keeper to open the scoring in the 61st minute, making this the eighth successive league game in which he has scored.
Centre-back Ben Harrison settled the match in the 77th minute with a low shot following a corner. Results elsewhere improved Alty's position at the top of the table and they are now ten points ahead of second-placed Grantham, though fourth-placed Shaw Lane have four games in hand but are now 13 points behind.
REFEREE: Mr Simon Brown
After making six changes on Tuesday for their Cheshire Senior Cup tie, Alty reverted to much the same line-up that beat Farsley last Saturday. However, Connor Hampson, who had missed the last couple of games, started today but Tom Hannigan was out, injured.
Alty captain Jake Moult is a former Rangers player and, for their part, Stafford had a couple of ex-Alty men on their bench namely Mat Bailey, (a striker when he played for us but now a centre-back), and Osebi Abadaki, a graduate of the Altrincham FC Youth team.
STAFFORD RANGERS (Black and white) 1 Adam Whitehouse, 2 Sam Griffiths, 3 Kai Davis, 4 Kieran Morris, 5. Jordaan Brown, 6. Josh Craddock, 7. Massiah McDonald, 8 Jack Sherratt, 9 Karl Hawley, 10 Dan Westwood, 11. Robert Thompson-Brown. Subs: 12 Izak Reid, 14 Mat Bailey, 15. Kieren Westwood, 16 Joe Thomas, 17 Osebi Abadaki
ALTRINCHAM (Purple shirts and shorts, white socks) 1. Tony THOMPSON, 2. Shaun DENSMORE, 3. Connor HAMPSON, 4. James JONES, 5. Ben HARRISON, 6. Jake MOULT (c), 7. John JOHNSTON, 8. Max HARROP, 9. Jordan HULME, 10. James POOLE, 11. Josh HANCOCK. Subs: 12. Tom PEERS, 14. Sean MILLER, 15. Simon RICHMAN, 16. Andy WHITE, 20. Tim DEASY
Mike Garnett reminds us of the historical record of matches between Altrincham and Saturday's hosts, Stafford Rangers. This shows that we have won more of our games at Marston Road than we have lost.
On a cold but dry afternoon at Marston Road, and with good away support, Alty kicked off towards the clubhouse end on a bobbly pitch at Marston Road.
The hosts started the better and, in the third minute, McDonald got clear in the box but Thompson blocked well at the cost of a corner, following which two Rangers shots had to be blocked by defenders.
Alty's first half-chance arose from a freekick after Poole had been fouled on the edge of the box, right of centre. Poole's freekick deflected for a corner, which Hulme headed over the bar (9 mins).
The visitors threatened more when a fine Poole ball went to Hancock but he tripped inside the box (11 mins).
Stafford's lively Thompson-Brown now won a corner on the right, which Harrop cleared, and from the counter-attack he fed Hancock who was given offside in the box (14 mins). Three minutes later, a quick Poole throw allowed Hancock to win a corner but this was wasted with a deficient short-corner routine.
Stafford swept to the other end and the veteran Hawley made a mess of a one on one with Thompson (18 mins). As play reached the midway point of the first half it was Rangers who had looked the more threatening so far.
Alty continued on the back foot as Thompson-Brown was tripped by Harrop as the Stafford player raced out of defence. A booking for Harrop was the referee's judgement (25 mins).
A so far subdued Johnston had now switched to the right wing as Poole continued to try and spark his side into action. And, on the half-hour, Johnston dribbled to the byline and went down after seeming to be clipped but no penalty was given.
After a Sherratt shot had run to Thompson, a Poole cross from the right was only just tipped over the bar for a corner (36 mins). But Stafford spurned a great chance to take the lead when, emerging from his own half, Thompson-Brown got clear of Harrop and his low cross found Hawley but, once more, Thompson came out to make a superb block (37 mins).
The home threat continued as Sherratt ran up the middle but Thompson saved his shot. But Altrincham then created their best chance to date as Hulme did well to get past a defender from a Harrop pass and feed Poole. But Poole lifted his shot over the bar from 12 yards (39 mins).
So half-time was reached with the game goalless and Altrincham indebted to their keeper for two vital blocks.
|Half-Time: STAFFORD RANGERS
After an uneventful opening to the second half, Altrincham gradually began to impose themselves.
A Poole effort was blocked at source and then a Hancock cross went to the keeper (52 mins). Thompson got away with a poor kick to an opponent as Alty now prepared Simon Richman on the bench. But no change was made before Hampson was tripped in the left corner at Rangers' end. Following the freekick, a Poole shot deflected to Jones who headed the ball over the bar (56 mins).
After 57 minutes, Richman duly came on for a clearly displeased Harrop, whom manager Parkinson spoke to twice after the player had sat down on the bench. Alty were now getting forward in a more sustained pattern and won another freekick before a Johnston cross had to be cleared.
Just after Jones had expertly shepherded the ball out for a goalkick, at the other end the ball was threaded through the middle to Hulme who calmly drew the keeper and slotted the ball home from right of goal to make it 1-0. It was Hulme's eighth successive league game in which he had scored (61 mins).
The home side began to lose a bit of composure as, firstly, McDonald handled the ball and then threw the ball away before the referee found reason to lecture Westwood (67 mins). But since the goal, Alty had been largely on the back foot as Stafford pressed for an equalizer.
Rangers now took Hawley off and brought on Abadaki, the ex-Alty youth player (72 mins). Next, Poole's 25-yarder cleared the bar and sailed out of the ground but he was otherwise having a good game as Alty's playmaker. At the end of a move in which Poole was fouled, but play had continued, Hulme hit the bar but had been given offside (73 mins).
Hulme continued to be a handful as he got in a shot which was blocked by a defender before his shot from the byline won a corner. Following this, an Alty effort from the edge of the box was blocked and the ball fell to Harrison who made it 2-0 with a low shot before wheeling towards the Alty supporters, arms aloft (77 mins).
Immediately White came on for Densmore (78 mins) and three minutes later Miller replaced Hancock.
With seven minutes remaining, Hulme's fine header hit the post from a cross from the left after which Reid and Mat Bailey came on for Rangers (84 mins).
Harrison then conceded a corner after which he and Thompson briefly exchanged words. Another corner soon arrived, won by Reid but Alty dealt with it (86 mins).
With the game into four added minutes, McDonald clattered White's back but escaped a booking as the referee already had his mind on booking Craddock for an earlier offence and a yellow card was duly shown to the Stafford man. In the third added minute, Thompson saved the ball from going for a corner but was caught by McDonald. After treatment play resumed briefly before the final whistle marked Altrincham's sixth successive away win.
Although they had not played with as much flair as earlier in the season when pitches were better, Altrincham had absorbed Stafford's first-half pressure then cranked up their performance after the interval before once more showing the ability to hold onto a lead. With Grantham (2nd) and Shaw Lane (4th) both drawing, Alty now lead the table by ten points but the Yorkshire side have four games in hand in which to reduce their thirteen-point deficit on Altrincham.
|Full-Time: STAFFORD RANGERS 0