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Vanarama National League North

Play-off eliminator match
played on Sunday, 19 July 2020 at 1.30pm
Behind Closed Doors


In a match played behind closed doors as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic, Altrincham got themselves 3-0 ahead before the hour mark against a side reduced to ten men but then conceded twice and ended up hanging on through the remainder of the game, including eight added minutes at the end of the match.

Altrincham started the better but Chester began to get into the game after ten minutes or so. However, Josh Hancock then fired Altrincham ahead from twenty yards, with keeper Gray not doing as well to keep it out as might have been expected (34 mins).

The second half was largely dominated by Chester yet it was Alty who found themselves 3-0 up against ten men before the hour mark. The decisive factor was referee McNamara's award of a dubious penalty when Mooney went down under a challenge from the retreating John Johnston, who was sent off.

Elliott Durrell, who otherwise had a quiet game, sent Gray the wrong way from the spot (53 mins). Just a few minutes later, Hulme fed Durrell and, from left of goal, he deftly clipped the ball into the far corner of the net (59 mins). So it was 3-0 and Chester faced a further half an hour with ten men

To their credit the visitors had much the better of the rest of the afternoon. A sloppy pass by Moult allowed Dudley ito the box to feeed Glendon for an easy goal (63 mins) before a fine cross from the left by Waters allowed Hughes to head home a second goal for his side (77 mins).

Alty continued to labour but managed to see out the remainder of the ninety minutes, as well as some nine added minutes, to secure an away semi-final at York City.


REFEREE: Mr David McNamara
ATTENDANCE: Behind Closed Doors

The most striking change in line-up from when these clubs met three times earlier in the season was that former Alty wingman John Johnston was now in the Chester FC camp, having moved there in late January 2020.

However, Alty had retained the services of loanee Josh Lundstram from Crewe Alexandra and Chester FC had likewise been permitted to included Carlisle United loanee goalkeeper Louis Gray in their squad as well as new goalkeeper/coach Jon Worsnop.

James Jones took no part, given his impending move, rumoured to be to a Football League club. Another surprise for Alty was the absence of Shaun Densmore, who had just become a father, and the inclusion on the bench of James Hooper, ex-Witton Albion. Also absent was midfielder Sean Williams.

For Conor Hampson, today was his 100th appearance for Altrincham.


ALTRINCHAM (Red and white striped shirts, black shorts, red socks): 1. Tony THOMPSON, 2. Andy WHITE, 3. Connor HAMPSON, 4. Toby MULLARKEY, 5. Tom HANNIGAN, 6. Jake MOULT (c), 7. Daniel MOONEY, 8. Josh LUNDSTRAM, 9. Jordan HULME, 10. Josh HANCOCK, 11. Elliott DURRELL. Subs: 12. Craig MAHON, 14. Max HARROP, 15. Tom PEERS, 16. Simon RICHMAN, 17. James HOOPER, 20. Elliot WYNNE

CHESTER FC (All blue): 1. Louis Gray, 2. Kevin Roberts, 3. Joel Taylor, 4. Scott Burton, 5. Danny Livesey, 6. Simon Grand, 7. Brad Jackson, 8. George Glendon, 9. George Waring, 10. Danny Elliott, 11. John Johnston. Subs: 12. Jamie Morgan, 13. Jon Worsnop 14. Matty Waters, 15. Gary Stopforth, 16. Matty Hughes, 17. Anthony Dudley


By coincidence the first home fixture which was postponed due to Covid-19 was the scheduled league match against Chester FC on 21 March and now that very same fixture had become the first match since the loosening of the lockdown restrictions.

However, the contest had assumed greater importance than a routine league game as it was now a promotion play-off "eliminator" after the league had finalised the league table with both clubs having qualified for the play-offs through the "points per game" formula. By that methodology, Altrincham had finished fifth and Chester sixth.

Whereas a bumper crowd could have been expected for this Cheshire derby, the ground was restricted to accommodating just the playing squad, backroom staff and others deemed essential to the process.

The sides had actually met three times previously in this protracted 2019-20 campaign. A last-gasp own goal had given Alty a 1-1 draw in the league back in August 2019 and the same score was achieved the following month in the FA Cup when Josh Hancock's goal was the Alty equalizer after Chester had taken a second-minute lead. By coincidence it was James Jones's second-minute goal for Alty that had won the replay for The Robins.

The late Mike Garnett's records, updated, uncover the historical record between the clubs...

This was Altrincham's first competitive fixture since 7 March when they beat Spennymoor Town 4-1 at the J. Davidson Stadium. It was therefore 134 days of competitive inaction that were terminated by this match. It was the second successive appearance in the play-offs for Phil Parkinson's team, having fallen at the semi-final hurdle at Chorley in 2019.

Alty's Elliott Durrell, who counted Chester FC as one of his former clubs, was looking to extend his remarkable record of scoring in all four of his appearances for Altrincham before lockdown had started.


On a warm and sunny afternoon, in front of up to 100 persons with matchday duties, Altrincham kicked off and had the better of the opening stages. Fouls on Hulme (3 mins) and then on Mooney shortly afterwards produced home freekicks. From the second of these, a superb strike from 22 yards by Hancock was pushed onto the bar for a corner by Gray (5 mins).

After Mooney had overhit the resulting corner, the same winger fired into the side-netting from the right, where the left-footed player was operating. Soon afterwards a poor ball from Mooney led to a chance for Elliott but he fired tamely at Thompson.

Chester were now beginning to improve (12 mins). Next Taylor, the ex-Kidderminster man, got in a good cross which Elliott headed at goal but Thompson saved it at the second attempt (15 mins).

Then Grand's underhit back pass allowed Mooney to get to the ball ahead of the advancing keeper but Gray managed to block (19 mins).

Following the mandatory mid-half drinks break, play was fairly even. Chester's Burton became the first to be booked for a foul in the middle of the pitch (29 mins) before Mullarkey advanced but fired well over the bar from long range (33 mins).

Hampson then battled in midfield to get the ball for Lundstram to relay to Hancock, whose twenty-yard shot beat Gray, low to the keeper's right. Gray might have done better to keep out the goal (34 mins).

When Hulme then chased a ball he almost somersaulted over the railings at the Hale end of the ground. Chester's best effort arrived in the 39th minute when, following a long throw, Grand's header was tipped over the bar by Thompson for Chester's first corner. Glendon wasted this with a woeful effort into the side-netting.

Five minutes later another Chester corner arrived, off Hampson, before Johnston won himself another flag kick moments later.

In added time an Elliott foul on Moult was soon followed by a wild challenge by Moult which sparked a melee from which both Lundstram and Grand were booked (45+4 mins).

Alty were narrowly deserving of their lead at the interval.


Early in the second half, Chester won three corners in succession, the first won by Johnston, who had had a quiet first half at his old stomping ground (49 mins).

But with Alty now under the cosh, Hulme played the ball forward to Mooney. As he got into the box, Mooney hesitated and the chasing Johnston challenged him. To the surprise of some people the referee not only awarded a penalty but also sent off Johnston.

Durrell sent Gray the wrong way from the spot to net for the fifth time in his five appearances for Altrincham (53 mins).

Chester immediately replaced Burton and Elliott by Dudley and Stopforth.

And it was not long before Durrell netted again. Hulme's feed led to the former Chester man clipping the ball across Gray from left of goal and into the far corner of the net (59 mins). At 3-0 and facing ten men it looked a formality for Altrincham to complete a comfortable victory in the remaining half hour.

But it was to be far from that simple. Moult's misdirected pass back towards his own penalty area from some 40 yards out right of goal went to Dudley. Only Hannigan got back to defend the situation and he was left exposed as Dudley drew Hannigan before feeding Glendon for a simple conversion in the centre of the box. So it was 3-1 (63 mins).

The drinks game gave Alty a chance to regroup but they were to fail to do so. On 67 minutes Richman and Mahon replaced Lundstram and Durrell whilst Chester replaced Grand by Morgan (67 mins).

Altrincham were not functioning smoothly and things did not improve when Hulme was given offside, booted the ball away in anger and managed to hit one of the few people in the ground full-on, a cameraman who was standing just yards away. Hulme was predictably booked and three minutes later withdrawn by his manager and replaced by Peers (73 mins).

In the intervening spell, Richman also got himself booked for a foul in midfield (72 mins).

The broken-up flow of the game continued as Hughes and Waters replaced Taylor and Waring for Chester (74 mins).

Next Mullarkey was harshly penalised after winning the ball on the front edge of the box but Waters put the freekick into the side-netting (77 mins). Chester remained on top, despite being a man short, and they got their reward with a second goal moments later.

A fine cross from the left by Waters was cleanly headed home by Hughes from the centre of the box to make it 3-2. A stoppage for treatment to Gray prompted an impromptu further drinks break before Harrop replaced Mooney (85 mins).

When Harrop then slid in on Morgan there was a bit of a contratemps between the two but the referee took no disciplinary action (89 mins).

With seven added minutes decreed at the end of the ninety, Peers relieved the pressure by gaining a corner (90+1 mins). The frustration of the Chester bench then resulted in joint-manager Johnson being shown a red card after kicking a bottle of Lucozade onto the pitch.

Alty managed to see out what turned into some nine added minutes to secure a win which was far less convincing by the final whistle than it had promised to be at the hour mark.

Alty's reward is a third visit to Bootham Crescent this season, where they have already dispatched York City from both the FA Cup and FA Trophy. Hopefully this afternoon's workout will stand them in good stead to make it three wins in a season at the historic ground.