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Vanarama National League North match
played on Tuesday, 7 January 2020 at 7.45 pm


Altrincham made it five successive league wins as they rose to ninth in the league table with this ultimately comfortable win over Blyth Spartans.

But, when half of the floodlights went out after just 13 minutes it could have signalled a premature end to the fixture. However, light was restored after six minutes' delay.

Altrincham had been the better side before they took a 34th minute lead when a neat interchange between Densmore and Hancock led to Densmore's low cross from the right byline, which Moult prodded home for the captain's third goal in six matches.

Referee Bannister, whose approach to refereeing was of the extreme laissez-faire school, letting fouls go willy-nilly, bizarrely played just four minutes and forty-five seconds of added time at the end of the first half. This was despite having decreed a minimum of five minutes, which itself was curious when the floodlight failure and an injury to Andy White should have made eight minutes a more accurate extension to the half.

Alty remained on top in the second half and a fantastic run by Johnston almost doubled the lead but his shot came back off the inside of the post (53 mins). Despite the Robins' dominance it took a magnificent thirty-yard shot from Hancock to make it 2-0 in the 71st minute.

Blyth's resistance was completely undone when, just three minutes later, it became 3-0 as Peers headed home a Johnston cross from the right.

With the game into added time, Richman pulled back substitute Wrightson as he advanced up the middle. Thackray hit the freekick into the bottom corner by way of consolation for the visitors (90+3 mins).

This was another fine performance from Altrincham which must have impressed the two scouts from Guiseley who watched the game ahead of Alty's clash with the Yorkshire side at the J. Davidson Stadium on Saturday.


REFEREE: Mr Aaron Bannister, whose previous Alty games included the FA Cup win at Southport this season.
ATTENDANCE: 614, on a night when Old Trafford hosted Manchester City and, understandably, not many travelled from Blyth.

Tom Peers replaced Max Harrop in the no.11 shirt, so Altrincham started with seven of the same players who had faced Blyth on the Spartans' last visit to Altrincham in May 2019 for the Play-Off semi-final, and all of the other four starters in that 2019 game still remain at (or on loan at) the club but were either injured (Sean Williams and loanee Yussifu Ceesay), or on the bench (James Jones, Connor Hampson). Alty's only change from the win at Leamington on Saturday was on the bench where Jones, returning from illness, displaced goalkeeper Joel Torrance.

In contrast, Blyth had experienced a major loss of personnel from their successful first-team squad of last season, with many choosing to move to rivals Darlington and York City, whilst others moved into the Northern League. As a consequence not one of the Blyth starting eleven from last May at Moss Lane started tonight and only tonight's subs Wrightson and Horner were in the squad back then.

However, Robbie Dale, a former nemesis of Altrincham, did start tonight having missed the May encounter as he was on holiday. In fact, Blyth were unchanged from the side which had won at Kidderminster last time out.


ALTRINCHAM (Red & white striped shirts, black shorts, red socks): 1. Tony THOMPSON, 2. Shaun DENSMORE, 3. Andy WHITE, 4. Toby MULLARKEY, 5. Tom HANNIGAN, 6. Jake MOULT (c), 7. John JOHNSTON, 8. Simon RICHMAN, 9. Jordan HULME, 10. Josh HANCOCK, 11. Tom PEERS. Subs: 12. Luke WALL, 14. Ethan WALKER, 15. Connor HAMPSON, 16. James JONES, 17. Max HARROP.

BLYTH SPARTANS (All sky blue) 1. Zach Hemming, 2. Rhys Evans, 3. Scott Wilson, 4. Damen Mullen, 5. Jack Sanders, 6. Kris Thackray, 7. Jack Hunter, 8. Lewis Hawkins, 9. Michael Sweet, 10. Callum Roberts, 11. Robbie Dale (c). Subs: 12. Tom Devitt, 14. Corey McKeown, 15. Adam Wrightson, 16. Mark Waddington, 17. Lewis Horner.


Mike Garnett's records tell us the historical record of Altrincham against Blyth Spartans:

Following the departure of manager Alun Armstrong in the summer, Blyth are now managed by former Newcastle United player and experienced Football League manager, Lee Clark. After a poor start to the campaign, Blyth had improved in recent weeks and, before kick off, they lay a respectable twelfth in the form guide over the last five league games, whilst Alty lay twelfth in the actual league table. Before kick-off tonight, Blyth had put eight points between themselves and bottom placed Bradford (Park Avenue) and were now just three points from safety, behind Curzon Ashton.

Meanwhile, a fifth consecutive league win for Altrincham tonight would move them up to ninth and leave them still with up to three games in hand on those clubs remaining above them.


Watched by two scouts from their next opponents, Guiseley, amongst a crowd of 614, an unchanged Altrincham kicked off towards the away end.

An early Alty freekick routine following a foul on White came to nothing (2 mins). The visitors were soon trying to close down Alty quickly and there was nothing resembling a shot on goal till Hulme's lay-off led to a Hancock effort which flew well over the bar (7 mins).

Already referee Bannister was letting obvious fouls go unpunished, presumably in a belief that he should keep the game flowing. The hosts were having the better of the opening exchanges and won the game's first corner as Hancock fed Hulme on the byline. Another Alty corner followed soon after the first but neither came to much (11 mins).

Hancock then got behind Mullen and went down under a challenge in the box but play was waved on. Moments later all of the floodlights on the Popular Side went out at once and play came to a halt (13 mins). It later emerged that a bulb had failed and tripped the electrical circuit.

It took five minutes to get the illumination working again and, after this hiatus of some six minutes, play resumed (19 mins). During the break there were animated conversations between Jake Moult and the referee, no doubt over the official's decision-making.

Alty continued to concentrate their attacks up the left, via Johnston, but neither keeper had been seriously inconvenienced as the game reached the 22nd minute. At that point a smart Hancock lay-off gave Moult a shot from the edge of the box but his effort flew well over the bar.

Blyth then got in a good cross which Densmore did well to guide back to Thompson (24 mins). Next, a neat Alty move yielded another corner which Johnston hit too short and low to beat the first man. Soon afterwards a foul on White left him needing treatment for a couple of minutes (25 mins).

The best move of the evening, so far, came as an eight-pass move culminated in a Hancock effort which was only narrowly over the bar. Alty's no.10 was having a fine match (30 mins).

Altrincham finally converted their possession into a goal when Densmore got forward and exchanged passes with Hancock before getting round his marker and crossing, low, from the right byline. In the goalmouth Moult managed to prod the ball home for his third goal in six league outings (34 mins).

Alty continued to threaten with a characteristic Hulme dribble inside the box. Another multi-pass move from the Robins was followed by a clear foul on Densmore which the referee again let go as he was to do throughout the game with dubious challenges by both sides.

Left-back Wilson, who had only joined Blyth recently, now won his side a corner from a cross but Thompson then impressively cleared this 60 yards upfield to Johnston.

Mr Bannister's curious performance continued as, after a six minute stoppage for the floodlight failure and up to two mnutes for treatment to White, he declared a minimum of five added minutes. Even more weirdly he blew the half-time whistle after just four minutes and some forty seconds! As he left the pitch both Moult and manager Parkinson made separate "observations" to the referee.


With steady, but light, rain now swirling around the ground in a moderate breeze, Blyth kicked off and soon saw a Hunter effort go comfortably wide (46 mins). But Alty were soon asserting themselves, once more, as they won two corners in succession. From the second of these Tom Hannigan had a shot saved by Blyth's Middlesbrough loanee keeper, Hemming (52 mins).

There was then a wondeful moment as Johnston picked up the ball, ran some fifty yards moving in from the right wing, before seeing his low shot, from a fairly central position, come back off the inside of the post. It would have been a wonderful goal had it gone in (53 mins). At this point Waddington replaced Dale for the Spartans. But Blyth then had a better spell and Sweet had a great chance to level but, from close range, Thompson blocked his effort (62 mins). The visitors went on to win a corner, following a freekick for a foul on Hunter, and from this a curling effort by Wilson just cleared the bar from 20 yards. Another poorly taken Alty corner came and went as the second half reached its midway point.

The referee played advantage as Hancock was fouled before pulling up play for a subsequent foul on Moult, who needed treatment before continuing. The freekick came to nothing but, soon afterwards, Hancock let fly from 30 yards and beat Hemming with a superb shot to make it 2-0 (71 mins).

Just after this Jones came on to replace Moult (73 mins). Hulme then impressed with his hold-up play before sweeping the ball right to the marauding Johnston. His pin-point cross was headed home by Tom Peers to make it 3-0 (74 mins).

Hulme was soon subbed, with loanee Walker replacing him and Wrightson came on for Hunter for the visitors (75 mins). Peers now went up front with Walker on the left-wing. Almost immediately a Walker shot gained a corner which was taken short before Johnston got the ball back and skied his effort (77 mins).

A rare aberration by Hannigan saw him pass the ball sideways to Sweet whose shot was straight at Thompson (79 mins). But Blyth soon won a corner before Alty brought on Hampson for Hancock who was deservedly applauded off (81 mins). After yet another unproductive Alty corner, Walker played a fine reverse pass which set Peers clear on goal but, as he got to the box, he hesitated and a retreating defender halted the Alty man (84 mins).

With play into three added minutes, Johnston launched a shot into Golf Road (90+1 mins) but then Wrightson was allowed to advance up the middle, only for Richman to pull him back from behind. Richman was cautioned for his offence and, with the Alty wall nowhere near ten-yards back, Thackray nevertheless planted a well-struck freekick to its left and the ball flew into the bottom left-corner of Thompson's net to put the only blemish on an otherwise excellent performance.

This fifth win in succession lifted Alty to ninth, still with games in hand. And it was the first five-win sequence in the league since mid-seson 2017-18 in Alty's Northern Premier League championship season. The play-offs look a distinct possibility now as Alty prepare to face Guiseley on Saturday before a long haul up to Spennymoor in midweek.