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Pre-season friendly match
played on Tuesday, 16 July 2019, at 7.45pm


An entertaining match at the Skuna Stadium ended in a draw for Altrincham against the newly promoted NPL side, Atherton Collieries. With no trialists in their starting eleven, Altrincham fell behind to a seventh-minute penalty when Mullarkey was judged to have brought down Bentham. The home striker got up to convert the spot-kick.

Altrincham levelled the score in the 34th minute when Tom Peers back-heeled the ball home after it had been played into the goalmouth by Toby Mullarkey at an Alty corner.

Alty made half a dozen changes at the interval, one of whom was a trialist, Lewis Walters from AFC Fylde, who played on the left-wing. In the 69th minute, another of the second-half substitutes, Max Harrop, hit the net with a superb freekick from outside the box after a foul on Matt Chadwick.

Just four minutes later, the hosts came back strongly and scored a deserved equalizer, albeit thanks to an Altrincham defensive lapse. James Jones tried to shepherd a ball back to his keeper, Tony Thompson, only for Hardcastle to nip in and take the ball round the keeper and score.



Altrincham started without any trialists and, indeed, only one was included in the squad as a whole. And he, Lewis Walters, was not one who had previously figured in Altrincham's pre-season. Walters is a former AFC Fylde player, whose previous clubs were Leeds United, Nottingham Forest, Barrow and Guiseley. Harrogate-based, Walters had trials at Carlisle United last summer.

Goalkeeper Steven Drench had a workout with coach Chris Parkes before the game and Andy White also warmed up with the playing squad but neither was to be involved in the match. Ben Harrison was also present but did not play.


ATHERTON COLLIERIES (Black & white striped shirts, black shorts and black & white hooped socks): 1. Greg Hartley, 2. Clive Smith, 3. Gary Peet, 4. Vincent Bailey, 5. Danny Lafferty, 6. Ian Rowlands, 7. Jack Egan, 8. Oliver Roberts, 9. Tom Bentham, 10. Ben Hardcastle, 11. Ben Conway. Subs: Dave Sherlock, Kieran Nolan, Matt Grimshaw, Marcus Perry, Toyeeb Mustapha

ALTRINCHAM (Purple shirts and shorts, white socks): 1. Tony THOMPSON, 2. Shaun DENSMORE, 3. Connor HAMPSON (c), 4. Toby MULLARKEY, 5. Tom HANNIGAN, 6. Conor BRANSON, 7. John JOHNSTON, 8. Simon RICHMAN, 9. Tom PEERS, 10. Josh HANCOCK, 11. Nathan ARNOLD. Subs: 5*. James JONES, 12. Jordan HULME, 14. Matt CHADWICK, 15. Sean WILLIAMS, 16. Max HARROP, 17. Dontai GABIDON, 18. Lewis WALTERS, GK. Oliver CULKIN


This was the Altrincham's first ever match against Atherton Collieries, who start 2019-20 in the Northern Premier League, following their promotion as champions of last season's EvoStik First Division (West).

The Colls were a friendly club and it is not every ground that not only has its sponsors' cider (Skuna) on tap at an outdoor table but also boasts a visiting ice-cream van. Atherton Collieries is also the only club that Alty have ever met for a pre-season game who have produced an all-colour programme with plenty of interesting content. Curiously, however, the ground does not seem to have a tannoy and, in one sense, that too was a blessing, given some of the over-loud musical dross meted out at certain matches last season.

The pitch at the Skuna Stadium has a marked slope running from the clubhouse end downwards.


Altrincham kicked off, playing up the slope and, in just the second minute, a neat move culminated in Hampson feeding Richman for a fine shot from outside the box which rattled the crossbar. And, just three minutres later, the same Alty midfielder chanced his luck again with a long-range shot but, this time, he was narrowly too high with his effort.

Soon afterwards, when Mullarkey and the Colls' striker, Bentham, came together in the front corner of the Alty box, a penalty kick was the outcome. Bentham himself beat Thompson to give the hosts the lead (7 mins).

Mullarkey almost made immediate amends but his header from an Alty corner cleared the bar (8 mins). Play switched to the other end where Atherton should have gone 2-0 up when Thompson's poorly kicked attempted pass went straight to Atherton's Egan. But, with Altrincham's goal completely unguarded, the Atherton number seven skewed his shot comfortably wide to give Alty a reprieve.

However, Atherton soon threatened again as left-back Peet jinked his way into the Alty box before being halted (10 mins). Play was now fairly even before a lively looking Tom Peers earned the visitors a corner (17 mins). He was then penalised for a foot-up offence.

Alty were passing the ball about well but not creating any clear opening. And when Peers won his side a freekick just outside the "D", Hampson's freekick went straight to the keeper. (24 mins).

Next, Peers cleverly won the ball on the right and advanced towards goal before being halted. A good Alty passing move now culminated in a fine Hancock shot, which Hartley did well to push over the bar for a corner. This was soon followed by another corner, from the right.

This corner was hooked back from the deeper part of the box by a hook from Mullarkey. The ball found Peers in the goalmouth and he smartly seemed to backheel the ball over the line for the equalizer (34 mins). Altrincham now got on top but again looked suspect at the back as Thompson flapped at a low cross, which was then cleared by a defender. The half ended with another on-target effort from Hancock, which Hartley did well to beat away.


Altrincham made changes at the interval as Hulme, Chadwick, Harrop, Williams and Walters all came on. Chadwick was deployed on the right and trialist Walters on the left. Atherton started the half well and Bentham turned well and forced an early save from Thompson (48 mins). From an ensuing corner, Thompson came for the ball but did not get it before Colls threatened again when Peet again got to the byline and his low cross, from the left, came off Bentham to a grateful Alty keeper (50 mins).

Both Harrop and Walters were impressing in the early stages before a fine 25-yarder by Williams was saved by Hartley (55 mins). For Colls, their substitute no.17 was looking particularly lively.

Altrincham almost conceded a goal when the ball got under Thompson's feet and he lost possesion to the harrying Bentham. But the Atherton striker was unable to capitalise on the error (58 mins). After this, Chadwick won a corner and then Densmore tripped Peet for a freekick before play halted for the hosts to make a clutch of substitutions, on the hour mark.

Alty also made changes as Hannigan, Hancock. Hampson and Densmore all went off with Mullarkey, Branson and Richman all returning and Gabidon also joining the fray at left-back, with Richman operating on the right of the back line (61 mins). Sean Williams now assumed the captaincy.

Atherton's impressive no.17 then got past Jones on the left but a resulting Atherton shot cleared the bar (65 mins). Following a home corner, Chadwick was upended more than 25 yards from goal in a fairly central position. Harrop hit the freekick superbly into the keeper's top righ-hand corner to give his side the lead (69 mins).

After Hardcastle had won his side a corner, Harrop had another chance to take a freekick from similar range to the one from which he had scored. Harrop again struck a fine freekick, but this time the keeper did well, beating the ball away to his left for a corner (72 mins),

With Altrincham looking reasonably comfortable with their lead they proceeded to commit suicide at the back. A ball up the middle saw Jones try to shepherd it back to the advancing Thompson. But Hardcastle took advantage of the Alty duo's hesitancy and nipped in to round Thompson and score (73 mins).

Alty's play became a little ragged, with mispasses from Richman and then Williams, and it was the hosts who were now getting on top. As the game went into its final five minutes Branson's fine pass gave Chadwick a shot but he fired wide.

Shortly before the final whistle Walters had a shot saved but the game ended in a 2-2 draw which was probably a fair outcome. Altrincham had played some good passing football but also were less than impressive at the back, particularly in the second half.