Altrincham manager Phil Parkinson

Evo-Stik League – Remarkable rise to league summit sets up crucial spell for Altrincham

JUST 2 months ago, the prospect of ALTRINCHAM being top of the Evo-Stik Premier seemed a pipedream.

The Robins and STALYBRIDGE CELTIC were relegated from the National League North last term and struggled to make an immediate response, with both stuck near the bottom of the table. A run of 10 points from 12 offered Bridge some hope but they’ve taken just 1 point from their last 2 games, so remain 6th-bottom heading into today’s home match with Barwell.

However, with Alty manager Phil Parkinson (pictured above) having found a settled team after rebuilding the squad in the summer, the Robins have soared up the league. Last week’s 3-0 home win against Halesowen not just made it 1 league defeat in 13 but sent them top of the table.

Heading into the August Bank Holiday weekend, not even the most ardent Alty fan could have expected Parkinson, who joined from new league rivals Nantwich in the summer, to have turned things around so quickly. But now his side have a testing run in which we’ll see if they really have the potential to bounce back with promotion after being relegated 2 years running.

Parkinson’s men are top on goal difference from Warrington Town and Shaw Lane, and they visit Warrington today. The Robins then have home games against Lancaster City and Buxton before visiting Shaw Lane on Monday, November 6.

“We’re just trying to focus on 3 games ahead,” said Parkinson. “It’s great to be where we are in the league, but I’m certainly not reading too much into that. It is fantastic for the supporters, because they have had a long time of being in the doldrums. It gives them something to be excited about, but (assistant boss) Neil Sorvel, myself and the lads know exactly what the job in hand is, what we have got to try to achieve and what is expected of us. So it is nice, but I’m not going to get overly carried away with it.

“Come Christmas, we will reassess where we are, but it is a credit to the lads for the run they have been on and the fantastic home form they have shown.”

The Alty boss added: “All the games coming up now are going to be huge for us, in terms of who we are playing – Warrington, Lancaster, Buxton, after which there’s a Meet the Manager and Players evening (on November 4) which should make it even more special, and then Shaw Lane.

“There’s a real tough run of fixtures ahead, and we’ve got to be really on our mettle every single week. But we are looking at it really positively and are going into these games full of confidence and full of goals.”

After scoring 166 goals in 278 starts for Alty, Damian Reeves left for Shaw Lane in the summer and scored their FA Cup winner against Barrow last week, sending them into the 1st Round. That set up an exciting home tie with League Two Mansfield, although Shaw Lane’s Cup run means they have a game in hand in the Evo-Stik Premier. But before trying to upset Mansfield, the Barnsley-based outfit have an away game today against 8th-placed ASHTON UNITED, who lost to a much-changed Alty side on penalties in the Integro Cup in midweek.

“Shaw Lane could go top (with the game in hand) so it’s just important we stay in and around the top 5 places, especially around the festive period, then re-evaluate and really kick on from there,” said Parkinson.

“I don’t want to dampen anyone’s spirits, but I do want to keep everyone’s feet firmly on the ground. The lads, myself, the management team and everyone associated with the club are really pulling in the right direction. There is a real feelgood factor at the club at the moment, but we’ve got to remember there will be some tough times ahead as well, because when winter comes in, it is really testing.”