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Vanarama National League North match
played on Saturday, 25 August 2018, at 3pm


Without Hampson, Goulding, Richman, Poole, Peers and Harrison in their squad, and fielding two debutants in goalkeeper Elliot Wynne and winger Owen Dale, who is on loan from Crewe, Altrincham were certainly good value for this win at Blackwell Meadows. Despite creating nine decent openings in the first 45 minutes, Alty had only one goal to show for a dominant first-half, and that came from the penalty spot rather than open play. Johnston converted a spot-kick, which had been awarded for handball, after 30 minutes.

Altrincham's finishing improved after the break when Jordan Hulme netted twice in a ten-minute spell, each time with a low shot, after the home defence had opened up (51 and 61 mins). Darlington did not muster a serious shot on target till the ninetieth-minute when Wynne produced a magnificent save to push the ball onto the woodwork.

The only downsides to a fine performance, which resulted in Alty's first clean-sheet of the season and featured a fine midfield performance from Sean Williams, were an injury to John Johnston which led to his hobbling off early in the second half and Jordan Hulme's fourth booking of the season, when he needlessly showed dissent with his side already three goals to the good.


REFEREE: Mr Dean Hulme

Phil Parkinson reacted to two home defeats in the preceding week by making five changes to his starting eleven, having made four for last Saturday's game against Boston United. Into the side today came goalkeeper Elliot Wynne who, like loanee winger Owen Dale (from Crewe Alexandra) was making his Alty debut today. Restored to the starting eleven were central defenders Shaun Densmore and James Jones as well as midfielder Sean Williams, whilst out of the starting eleven went goalkeeper Tony Thompson, defender Conor Hampson, centre-back Liam Goulding as well as midfielders Max Harrop and Simon Richman. How many of these changes were enforced by knocks rather than tactics was unclear.


DARLINGTON (Black and white hooped shirts, black shorts and socks) 1. Jonathan MADDISON, 2. Luke TROTMAN, 3. Ben O'HANLON, 4. Liam HUGHES, 5. Jonathan BURN, 6. Terence GALBRAITH, 7. Jordan NICHOLSON, 8. Tom ELLIOTT, 9. Reece STYCHE (c), 10. Simon AINGE, 11. Stephen THOMPSON. Subs: 12. Mitchell GLOVER, 14. David SYERS, 15. Dominic COLLINS, 16. Harvey SAUNDERS, 17 Kieron DUNN

ALTRINCHAM (All purple): 1. Elliot WYNNE, 2. Shaun DENSMORE, 3. Andrew WHITE, 4. James JONES, 5. Tom HANNIGAN, 6. Jake MOULT (c), 7. John JOHNSTON, 8. Sean WILLIAMS, 9. Jordan HULME, 10. Josh HANCOCK, 11. Owen DALE. Subs: 12. Max HARROP, 14. Brendon DANIELS, 15. Bay DOWNING, 16. Liam GOULDING, 20. Tony THOMPSON.


The hosts had changed their name back to Darlington (from Darlington 1883) since our one and only previous visit to Blackwell Meadows, which had ended in a 3-1 defeat. That had been a midweek game so this was the first opportunity for Altrincham to see the stadium, which is shared with the local rugby club, in daylight. A large clubhouse with a verandah lies along one side of the pitch, with a seated stand opposite, almost all of which is labelled for season ticket holders. One end of the ground is completely undeveloped, apart from a concrete path, but the other end houses the home side's standing supporters.

The hosts were looking for their first home win, whilst Alty were seeking to continue their unbeaten start to the season in games on the road.


Alty opted to change ends so Darlington kicked off towards the open end. After a sterile 90 minutes against Boston last Saturday, during which Alty did not land a shot on goal, it took them just 70 seconds to improve on that in this match as Hancock's 30-yarder forced a very early save from Maddison.

Although Darlington won the game's first brace of corners, between these Alty went the closer to scoring as, first, a Johnston effort narrowly cleared the bar and, then, Hulme had an effort saved (8 mins).

Alty continued to threaten as a Johnston cross from the right somehow evaded everyone in the Darlington goalmouth before Darlington's defender, Galbraith, needed treatment (12 mins).

Following the award of Altrincham's first corner, won by Hulme, Galbraith had to be substituted by Collins (14 mins). Altrincham should have taken the lead in the 17th minute when, from another corner by Johnston, Hancock found space for a free header but put the ball over the bar.

Hancock soon had another opening but this time he put a mishit shot wide, from a Densmore feed (19 mins). A holding foul committed by Sean Williams brought him a fairly harsh yellow card as Alty were looking the better side (24 mins). But when, moments later, Thompson brought down Dale, a freekick was the only punishment for the offender.

Moult and Hulme then combined well, only for Dale to scuff a shot wide from a promising position (25 mins). Maddison was soon called into action again, to save from Johnston, and soon afterwards the young keeper did well to block a Hulme effort as the chances continued to be created, but spurned, by Altrincham. As the half-hour mark approached the visitors had had half a dozen openings without converting any of these chances but, when a Hancock ball into the box from the left was adjudged to have been handled by Thompson, Alty were awarded a penalty.

Johnston sent Maddison the wrong way to make it a deserved 1-0 to the visitors (30 mins). But Johnston then picked up a needless booking for celebrating in front of the home supporters.

The Robins' chances from open play resumed soon after the goal as Hancock fired narrowly over from a Johnston pass (32 mins). Over the next eight minutes the sides then traded a corner apiece before Alty resumed their domination.

An excellent move just before the break allowed Hulme to feed Johnston and then get on the end of his returned cross from the right but Hulme hooked the ball narrowly over the bar (44 mins). Two minutes of added time saw Alty's ninth decent opening of the game go unconverted as Hancock's underpowered shot ran to Maddison and, following a corner, Hannigan headed over the bar.


Darlington had to substitute their first-half substitute at the interval as an injured Collins was replaced by Saunders. The new man played upfield as Ainge reverted back to his historic role as a defender.

After a corner apiece and a Hulme shot which Maddison had to save, the Alty striker found the back of the net following a counter-attack. Hulme's low shot was curled round Maddison's left hand from left of centre (51 mins). So, for the sixth time in six games this season there had been a goal inside the opening ten minutes of the second half of a game involving Altrincham.

Soon after this Johnston sat down, off the ball, and after treatment had to be helped off the pitch, hobbling. He was replaced by loanee Brendon Daniels (55 mins).

A poorly directed and overpowered back pass from White was heading past Wynne for the goal-line before the debutant keeper raced back and diverted it away from danger but, not long after this, Alty extended their lead to three goals.

This goal came after Hancock had robbed Ainge of the ball and fed Hulme. He, again, finished calmly, knocking a low shot past the exposed keeper (61 mins).

Syers immediately replaced Burn for the Quakers (61 mins). Altrincham, having almost conceded an own goal minutes earlier, nearly did it again when a driven ball from Darlington's left diverted off Moult but went narrowly wide.

Hulme then got himself needlessly booked, presumably for verbal dissent (65 mins). It was his fourth booking of the season, most of which have been for dissent.

Darlington now enjoyed a better spell as Alty contented themselves with their three-goal cushion. Indeed, the hosts won three of the four corners to be awarded over the next ten minutes or so but Alty soon reasserted themselves with three corners inside two minutes (78 mins).

Alty next put forward an impressive attack, up the left, with White getting forward well only for Hancock to miskick when a shot on target should have found the net. Sadly, today, Hancock's industry was not matched by his finishing (81 mins).

With seven minutes remaining Alty brought on Downing for Dale, despite the new player seemingly being set to play for Wiltshire club Salisbury on Monday.

Alty completed their substitutions in the 86th minute when Harrop replaced Williams, who had had an excellent game in the Alty engine-room. Alty did not rest on their laurels as, following a corner, Hulme executed a superb speculative shot which crashed against the bar to deprive him of a hat-trick (88 mins).

There was still time for Altrincham's thirteenth corner of the afternoon, which arrived when a Hancock shot was deflected wide after White had again done well up the left wing.

Darlington finally landed a shot on target in the 90th minute but Wynne made a superb diving save to his right, pushing Saunders's effort onto the woodwork from a Trotman cross.

This had been an impressive showing from Altrincham who now need to translate their unbeaten and free-scoring away form into something similar at the J. Davidson Stadium when Guiseley visit on Bank Holiday Monday.