Altrincham's Damian Reeves has a shot blocked against Salford City

National League North: Altrincham are building bridges after relegation confirmed last week

ALTRINCHAM have already begun to build bridges with their fans after relegation from the National League North was confirmed last Saturday.

The Robins’ 2-1 defeat at Salford City sealed their fate, sending them down for the 2nd season running. They had 5 managers in 2016 and took until February of the current campaign to reach 10 points.

Angered by the sudden demise of the club, a group of disgruntled supporters held a walk-out protest against chairman Grahame Rowley during last month’s game against fellow strugglers Stalybridge Celtic. But at Rowley’s invitation, representatives of those fans met with the chairman on Tuesday to clear the air.

They then issued a joint statement on the club website about what was discussed, with Rowley giving his own statement on the incident which was the main reason for the rift. Neil Young resigned after a brief spell as manager last August amid claims he had been abused online by Robins supporters. The Non-League Paper then contacted Rowley while in his car after a game, putting those claims to the Alty chairman, and he responded by condemning the fans.

Alty supporters later protested their innocence and Rowley said at the recent open meeting that he was misquoted and asked for a retraction of the story. However, he’s now gone further to explain the incident.

His statement read: “I completely accept I didn’t handle the accusations made against our supporters surrounding the reasons for Neil Young’s resignation properly. Clearly in hindsight, I should’ve backed our fans not to have been involved in cyber bullying and treated such accusations with the contempt they deserved. Whilst under pressure from a reporter, I’ve given him a quote he could use without thinking through the ramifications. Worse still, I took his word as truth, in so doing going against my own instincts as to who I know our fans to be.

“Furthermore, I hadn’t realised the upset and hurt this had caused within the wider fan base at the time, and with hindsight I could have utilised the various communication channels we have put in place to clarify my comments and clear up any misunderstanding. I can only say I’m sorry – it definitely won’t happen again.”

As for the joint-statement, the main point of note is that Rowley revealed that work is underway which could “create significant opportunities to attract new investment and expertise into the club”. Rowley explained that the plans “require a considerable level of ‘stewardship’ as they involve negotiations with a third party, the co-ordination of a number of professional services and consultation with club stakeholders.”

He therefore feels there should be a continuity on the board during this process and the fan representatives agreed that Rowley should remain as chairman, agreeing to cancel any further protests.

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(Pictures courtesy of Michael Ripley Photography)

Later this week the club announced they had secured improved training facilities for next season. The Robins have struck an agreement with Wright Robinson College in Gorton, where the squad can make use of a 3G pitch, running track, gymnasium and swimming pool.

So things are looking up despite another frustrating afternoon at Salford. Alty actually took the lead as former Rochdale midfielder Gary Jones rolled back the years by smashing a 22-yard volley into the top corner. The Robins also had 3 strong penalty shouts turned down while Salford fought back through a Sam Walker penalty and a Simon Grand strike.

Andy Owens also hit the Salford bar with an overhead kick but the Ammies held on to stay 4th in the table while Alty’s unlikely battle to beat the drop was ended with 5 games still to play.

Interim manager Matt Doughty, who has been shortlisted for interviews to become the new permanent boss, said: “The main feeling is one of immense sadness for everyone connected with the club. It’s not nice being part of something like this, and it is a really sad day.

“But I know I am good enough to do the job, especially with the response I’ve had from the players since taking over. Anyone who has watched our games will have seen signs of improvement, signs of fight from the players and signs of something positive starting to take shape. The likes of Shaun Densmore, Jake Moult, Gary Jones and Simon Richman are right behind me and I am convinced we can recover and come back stronger.”

The Alty players can continue to fight Doughty’s corner by putting in another positive display at home to Brackley Town today.

STALYBRIDGE CELTIC are still fighting for survival though. A late equaliser meant 2nd-bottom Bridge had to settle for a 2-2 draw at FC United last Saturday but goals in each half by Danny Wisdom and Andy Bishop gave them a crucial 2-0 win at Alfreton on Tuesday night.

That leaves Celtic 10 points from safety with 7 games left and although they now have back-to-back home games, they’re against leaders AFC Fylde (Saturday) and 2nd-placed Kidderminster (Tuesday).