matt doughty

National League North: Famous escape acts offer Altrincham slim hope of survival

By Jacque Talbot – @Jac_Talbot

AFTER their hard-fought draw against Harrogate Town on Saturday, ALTRINCHAM finally moved into double figures for points gained in what has been a dismal season.

The Robins are seemingly destined to suffer relegation for the second straight year as they languish rock-bottom of the National League North.

With 13 games left, there are still 39 points to play for, but they’re 20 points adrift of safety and have won only once all season in the league.

Manager Matt Doughty believes a single win could be all the team need to build momentum, though, and possibly pull to safety.

And whilst results this season have been mostly deserved, especially the heartless displays that were too often produced under previous boss Jim Harvey, some of them under Doughty in recent weeks have not.

Though a marginal amount of positivity has increased among the players and management team, the same cannot be said of the fans, who are increasingly calling for Doughty to be sacked before the end of the season.

Alty are now on an awful 16-game winless run in the league – losing 21 out of 29 in total – leaving the supporters aghast. Their club have the worst record in the top 6 tiers of English football and are set to drop into the 7th tier for the first time in their proud history.

Evo-Stik North side HYDE UNITED added to Altrincham’s disastrous season by knocking them out of the Cheshire Senior Cup last week so the Rohins can focus on trying to mastermind a ‘great escape’ in the league.

And as the seasoned football fan knows too well, this sport has a funny habit of churning up a few surprises.

In the inaugural season of the Premier League in 1992/93, Oldham Athletic overturned an 8-point deficit in the final week to reach safety, while Brighton were 11 points adrift at the bottom of Division Three during the festive period of 1996/97 but went on a magnificent run from March and ensured their survival with a draw at Hereford on the final day of the
season to send the hosts down instead.

Another case in point is Leicester, a team who are no stranger to moments of defiance against the odds. In 2014/15, the Foxes had just 4 league wins to their name in April, yet picked up 19 points from the last 24 on offer to lift themselves off the foot of the table to a 14th-placed finish. For good measure they pulled off an even more remarkable feat by winning last season’s Premier League title.

The Altrincham optimist will look at these past safety stories as evidence of possible survival but, realistically, the club and the fans will just be hoping for an enjoyable season in the Evo-Stik League next season, without the stress of losing almost every match in lacklustre fashion.

With relegation all but sealed, the club needs to take a long, hard look at their plans for next season, to make sure the same mistakes do not occur and they do not do a Hyde, who were relegated 3 years running between 2014 and 2016 to drop from step one to step four of non-league.

To be fair, the board has already commissioned a strategic review of the current state and future direction of the club, the findings of which can now be found on the club website (click here). The findings will also be presented to fans at the club this Sunday, from 7pm, when there is also an opportunity to put questions to the board.

The day before that, the rock-bottom Robins host 3rd-bottom Worcester so there are few better opportunities to finally register their first home win of the season.

Alty may still go down but the standard has to be set this season ready for next and, if anything, the final 14 games can be used as an extended pre-season warm up. Then at least they can take something positive away from a season they would rather forget.