Evo-Stik Premier – Altrincham expect promotion battle with Buxton

ALTRINCHAM manager Phil Parkinson reckons the Robins could be battling it out with Buxton for promotion from the Evo-Stik Premier this term.

The two sides met on Saturday, playing out a 1-1 draw which kept Alty top of the table, a point clear of Warrington Town, while Buxton are joint-9th. But Parkinson feels the Derbyshire outfit have the potential to be up there with Alty after a thrilling 1-1 draw at the J. Davidson Stadium.

“Full credit to Buxton, they dug in there and they’re everything I knew they would be,” he said. “They were very competitive and I thought defensively they were superb. They stuck to their task, but so did we.

“Maybe a bit of communication was just lacking there but overall I thought it was a real entertaining game, end-to-end stuff. As painful as it is for me to say it, I think a draw is a fair reflection on the day, even though you have to say Jordan Hulme’s chance was a golden opportunity to claim the points.

“Tony Thompson’s saves were also a defining factor in the game. People always criticise Tony, unjustly I feel at times. They look at his height and maybe think that he’s easily disturbed by crosses, but I thought he was an absolute man-mountain.

“We try to play through teams, they try to play over teams. But if we can compete with Buxton on set-pieces we have a great chance of winning games.

“For any neutrals, it must have been a fantastic game. From my perspective, naturally enough, there’s a bit of disappointment at dropping points, but you have to say, if Buxton play like that every week, they are going to be up there. I went to watch them last Tuesday (2-1 home defeat by Rushall), and they were nowhere near that level. They raised their game all right.”

The Robins feared a centre-midfield dilemma with Simon Richman and Jake Moult suspended, but Laurence Taylor recovered from injury to form an unfamiliar partnership with former Bury trainee Max Harrop, who is accustomed to a more attacking role. Connor Hampson also came in at left-back after arriving on loan from Stockport County.

Around 1,000 litres of water were cleared from around the pitch and the stands in preparation for the game, Buxton’s first visit to Moss Lane since 1978.

For the first time since early September, Alty went behind in a home game, with Luke Hinsley putting the boys in blue in front after just 2 minutes, much to the surprise of the majority of the 974 spectators.

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Pictures courtesy of Michael Ripley Photography

It didn’t take the Robins long to reply, though, equalising just 6 minutes after Buxton took the lead. John Johnston’s free-kick looked to have missed everyone but right-back Joel Bembo-Leta nodded the ball back across at the back post for Josh Hancock to nod the ball home from close range.

Both sides had enough chances to steal all 3 points but a mixture of missing easy chances and superb defending kept the score level, most notably a “Schmeichel-esque” save, as Parkinson dubbed the stop from his keeper Thompson after Liam Hardy was clean through on goal.

Yet shortly after, Johnston beat his man on the Alty right and although Hulme’s effort beat the keeper, it was cleared off the line to secure a draw.

The Robins aim to stretch their unbeaten home run to 13 this Saturday as they host RAMSBOTTOM UNITED in the 2nd Qualifying Round of the FA Trophy.

The Rams are are 10th in the Evo-Stik North and beat STALYBRIDGE CELTIC 3-0 in the First Round of the Integro League Cup on Tuesday night so Parkinson is wary of an upset.

He added: “People have been using words like ‘routine’ about our home wins, or saying ‘it’s a given’ or ‘will it be 3 or 4 goals this week?’ But football doesn’t work like that. Take your eye off the ball, and the game slaps you in the face.”

Stalybridge aim to bounce back as they host Rushall in the FA Trophy, while ASHTON UNITED are away to league rivals Warrington and DROYLSDEN have an away tie against Stamford.