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Vanarama National League North

Play-off Final match
played on Saturday, 1 August, 2020 at 3pm
Behind Closed Doors


Altrincham won promotion back to the National League, thanks to a howler by Boston keeper Crook, which left Dan Mooney with an open goal, and he scored (65 mins). After a fairly cagey first half, which Boston shaded, the teams went in at the break goalless. Boston had lost York loanee striker Jake Wright to injury during the first half but Alty played throughout the game without three regular defenders in Densmore, White and Jones.


REFEREE: Mr Adam Herczeg (Durham). Earlier this season he had postponed Alty's game at Spennymoor Town so late that the Altrincham team and its supporters had already reached the Durham town. Phil Parkinson would also be aware that Mr Herczeg had refereed the play-off match in which his Nantwich Town side had lost to Spennymoor in 2017. This season he had been set to referee Altrincham's league game at York, but that had been postponed due to concerns about Covid-19.
ATTENDANCE: Behind Closed Doors

The Altrincham squad was without three regular defenders in James Jones (leaving the club), Shaun Densmore (not involved in play-offs owing to paternity) and Andy White (injured last time out), so midfielder Simon Richman played at right-back and there was no defender on the bench. James Hooper, who has yet to make his debut, came back into the squad on the bench.


BOSTON UNITED (Amber & black shirts, black shorts and socks): 1. Peter CROOK, 2. Matt CHALLONER, 3. Alan WHITTLE, 4. Tom PLATT, 5. Scott GARNER, 6. Luke SHIELS (c), 7. Andi THANOJ,8. Brad ABBOTT, 9. Jake WRIGHT, 10. Jordan THEWLIS, 11. Jay ROLLINS. Subs: 12. Dominic KNOWLES, 14. Simon AINGE,15. Jordan NICHOLSON, 16. Tyrell WARREN, 17. Frank MULHERN, 18.George WILLS

ALTRINCHAM (Red & white striped shirts, red shorts, red socks) 1. Tony THOMPSON, 2. Simon RICHMAN, 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. James HOOPER, 17. Sean WILLIAMS, 20. Elliot WYNNE.


For the second successive match of the play-offs, (after playing York City at Bootham Crescent), Altrincham were playing in an historic stadium in what, under normal circumstances, would definitely have been its last ever match. Boston seemed confident that in their case they would next play at their new stadium but, presumblby, this is dependent on their completing test events with sizable crowd numbers.

The late Mike Garnett's data, updated since his untimely death, reveals Altrincham's record in previous matches against Boston United.

Fifth-placed Altrincham had reached this stage after defeating Chester FC and York City, whilst third-placed Boston had only had to play once to reach this final, a 5-3 win at York Street over Gateshead.

Back on August Bank Holiday, 2019, Alty had crashed to a 5-0 defeat at Boston but the visitors' starting eleven today bore relatively little resemblance to that which featured on that occasion. In that game, Alty had started in seventeenth place and Boston were eighteenth; few would have bet on their final league positions.


Altrincham kicked off on a warm afternoon at the "behind closed doors" York Street stadium, for what promised to be the historic stadium's last ever match. Boston started the better but without causing any real danger. Indeed it was a Hancock freekick, which flew narrowly wide from 25 yards, which was the closest to a goal in the opening stages. That freekick arose from a foul on Hulme (10 mins).

When Thewlis went down in the front corner of the box, as Richman got in a block, no penalty was the outcome (7 mins). As Alty grew into the game a promising run by Hancock was halted as he neared the box (9 mins).

York City loanee Jake Wright then went down with a hamstring injury which had, apparently, troubled him before kick off (10 mins). He hobbled off and a little later he was replaced by the experienced Dominic Knowles (13 mins).

After a Durrell freekick had come to nothing, it took a block from Mullarkey to stop a threat from Knowles (18 mins). Next Mooney advanced and fed Hulme but, from his pass, Durrell miskicked his shot (19 mins). Following the mandatory drinks break, Boston won a corner which was taken short and led to Platt poking the ball just past the post (27 mins).

After a Mullarkey advance, the centre-back's shot won Alty what should have been a corner but which the linesman failed to award. Alty were now having a better spell but a freekick by Thanoj and a Rollins incursion both came to nothing for the hosts as play continued on a fairly even basis (34 mins).

Alty did finally win a corner in the 38th minute, following another Mullarkey incursion up the middle of the pitch. The young defender has performed impressively since James Jones opted to leave the club.

In midfield another young player, loanee Josh Lundstram, was also playing well as he blocked a Boston attack (43 mins). Following a Hampson foul on Rollins, the Boston freekick came off Shiels and just cleared the bar (44 mins).

Two added minutes at the end of the half included an Alty corner, off Whittle, but the first period ended goalless with the hosts having carried marginally the greater threat, though neither keeper had been busy.


Apart from an Alty half-chance from a Hulme header, the opening stages of tbe half were fairly uneventful.

Next, Boston's Thanoj wasted a good opening with a shot straight at Thompson after he had got round Moult (56 mins).

At the other end an underpowered effort from Durrell ran to the keeper harmlessly (57 mins). Better in quality was Jordan Thewlis's snap-shot from 25 yards which Thompson saved confidently (58 mins).

After Shiels had held Hulme, the resultant freekick by Durrell was poked wide by Mullarkey (59 mins).

Challinor then became the first player to be booked, for a foul on Mooney, on the hour-mark.

Soon afterwards, Alty won a corner but nothing came of this. Indeed the sides were largely cancelling out each other before the game's decisive moment arrived. It arose after Thompson cleared the ball to Richman on the right. The right-back did well to advance and feed Durrell on the edge of the box. He was closed down before he could shoot but the ball ran forward towards Crook. However, the Boston keeper made a hash of picking the ball up and it fell loose to the nearby Mooney who stroked it into the uguarded net from the right (65 mins).

Moments later Mooney was booked for a skirmish with Crook as the keeper hesitated to collect a through ball (66 mins). It was Mooney's fifth booking in his nine-game league career at Alty, a statistic that needs addressing. There was a surprisingly muted repsonse from Boston to falling behind before Tom Peers replaced Durrell (70 mins). Next, former Stockport striker Frank Mulhern came on for Boston's Thewlis and Craig Mahon replaced Mooney for Alty (71 mins).

Crook's unhappy afternoon continued as he kicked a freekick into touch. Play was then broken up by a series of niggly fouls as Boston surprisingly failed to rally themselves for a comeback. Indeed Hannigan was fouled three times in as many minutes as the home side's play helped Altrincham advance the clock.

After another foul, this time on Peers, Hulme won a corner before an unnecessary foul by Hancock, on Rollins, saw the Alty man cautioned (81 mins).

Play halted again when Mullarkey was hurt and had to go off for a blood shirt after sustaining a nose injury. After a couple of minutes with ten men, Mullarkey retured to the fray, with his nostril plugged (83 mins).

Next, Newton replaced Platt (84 mins) for Boston and, for Alty, Williams came on for Hulme, prompting Hancock to move up front (86 mins). Before added time started, Alty won a corner as they managed the closing stages efficiently. Surprisingly given the stoppages, substitutions and drinks' break, only three added minutes were decreed. Alty saw these out comfortably with Abbott's booking for a foul on Hancock underlining Boston's disappointment at falling at the final hurdle to promotion.

For Alty it signalled that a fifth spell at the top flight of non-League football would start whenever the new 2020-21 season gets under way.

And for management duo, Phil Parkinson and Neil Sorvel, it was a second promotion in three seasons with a play-off semi-final in the intervening season.