Altrincham miss out on Nicky Clee return as boss vows to wield axe

Nicky Clee celebrates a goal while at Altrincham (Gavin Rathbone)

NATIONAL League North strugglers ALTRINCHAM have been denied in their bid to bring Nicky Clee back to the club.

Manager Jim Harvey said after last Saturday’s 3-0 defeat at Worcester City that he feels his current squad is simply “not good enough” and is desperate to bring in reinforcements, as early as this week.

After seven years with the Robins, Clee joined Guiseley in the summer but left them by mutual consent on Wednesday. Alty and Gainsborough Trinity then made a move for the 33-year-old winger, who held talks with both clubs.

In a club statement, Alty felt they were on the verge of signing him after offering “substantial terms”, which Clee had indicated he was happy with. But league rivals Harrogate Town then “moved in with a counter-offer far beyond the Robins’ financial means”.

Alty are therefore yet to announce a new signing this week, although midfielder Charlie Joyce, Neil Young’s first signing in the summer, has left the club by mutual consent. Harvey saw some improvement in results after his first go at revamping the squad he inherited from Young, bringing in the likes of Greg Wilkinson and last week Wayne Thomas. The experienced defender was remarkably the 34th player named in Alty’s first-team squad this season as he made his debut at Worcester.

Sam Patterson was caught out for the first goal and moments later captain Alan Goodall was sent off for a foul outside the box. Worcester went on to score either side of the break, condemning joint-bottom Alty to their third defeat in a week after losing at home to both AFC Telford and fellow strugglers Bradford PA, so despite initial improvement Harvey feels more changes are a must.

“There are too many mistakes, defensively we are giving the ball away cheaply, and conceding, and some of the players are just not good enough,” he said. “I think the work-rate of the team with 10 men in the second half was excellent. I can’t fault that, but the footballing ability and know-how as a team and unit here is not what is required.

“But it’s not just today. The other night (against Bradford PA), we gave three goals away. These are unforced errors and it’s just ridiculous. Some of the stuff that’s going on has to be addressed and sorted out. There’s only one way to get out of it, and that’s hard work. But on top of that we need some better players. That is blatantly obvious to me. It’s just whether we can get the players in who can improve us.

“We have a budget to work to,” added the Altrincham boss. “I have cleared the decks a little bit, so there is a little bit of room there. Now it’s a case of finding the right players who are good enough to come in and improve us. That won’t be easy. But that’s what the job is, and that’s what we have to set about doing now.

“We need to look at it, because at the moment, the way we are playing and things that are happening to us, whether individual mistakes or just not good enough players, the overall result is it’s just not acceptable. Something is going to have to change pretty drastically to get us kicked into gear and getting on with it again.”

An FA Cup run would boost morale but Harvey’s men will have to take inspiration from the club’s famous giant-killing exploits as Saturday’s first-round tie is away to Lincoln City, who are second in the league above.

Although Goodall is serving a one-match ban, Tom Hannigan is back from the three-match ban he picked up for his red card against Matlock in the last round.

“I heard good reports of Tom at the start of the season and I quite rate him from seeing him previously,” said Harvey. “He’s played maybe 90 minutes of football in the last six to eight weeks so he’s going to be short of match fitness, but it’s good to have him available again, with all his experience and defensive qualities.”