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Match Reports

Altrincham vs. Latics

14 October 2023

Match Reports

Altrincham vs. Latics

14 October 2023

Latics face a stern test in the fourth round of qualifying in the FA Cup when they visit fellow National League side Altrincham at the J.Davidson Stadium.

Paul Murray will be in the dugout for Latics, having taken training during the week, with new boss Micky Mellon watching from the stands.

The final round of fixtures are to be played to finalise the sides who will play in the first round of the FA Cup, both Oldham Athletic and Altrincham are set to kick off their campaigns in England’s most prestigious cup competition.

It will be the first meeting between these two sides this season whose fortunes have been different so far. Latics played out their third consecutive 1-1 draw in the National League at the weekend with Dagenham & Redbridge at Boundary Park.

Oldham suffered a similar fate to the one they did against Maidenhead last week. They scored first for the sixth consecutive fixture and have gone without losing in that period but have been unable to convert their last three to wins.

James Norwood arrived on cue to poke his fifth of the season home after Josh Lundstram miscued a shot that rolled into a sea of bodies in the box. It was the forward’s first goal since the 4-0 win over Oxford City.

Latics had several chances to put the game to bed in both halves. Alex Reid and Brennan Dickenson both had opportunities to double the lead but failed to capitalise on Oldham’s dominance.

There were fewer chances in the second period. Mike Fondop and Norwood had efforts go just wide of both posts before the visitors punished Latics’ poor finishing. Josh Rees got onto the end of a wicked cross that he looped terrifically over Mathew Hudson with a header to equalise.

Elliot Justham meanwhile produced a fine double save in the dying minutes to keep the scores level in the Dagenham goal. Norwood’s strike was well pushed wide by the keeper before Fondop’s header that looked destined for the net was denied in sublime fashion by a wonderful fingertip stop.

Latics meanwhile remain in the hunt for the playoffs, just three points off the final spot, something Micky Mellon will be looking to rectify once league action resumes next week away at Rochdale.

The Opposition

Altrincham head into this fixture in fine form having won their previous five fixtures in the National League. They continued that run with a professional 2-0 win at Gateshead last weekend.

Both sides had their chances in the game, though in a cagey first half it was the home side who had the best chance of the period when Edward Francis’ deft touch was pushed brilliantly onto the bar by Ethan Ross.

However, Altrincham didn’t waste any time in the second half to make the Gates rue that missed chance. Regan Booty was robbed in his own half by Chris Conn Clarke who then slid a neat pass in behind for Justin Amaluzor, who opened the scoring with a cool first-time finish.

Conn Clarke continued to influence the second period. The midfielder took up a position on the right before delivering what was a cross turned shot that Archie Mair had to beat away.

From then on, both keepers had to make straight forward stops to keep the score at 1-0. In the final ten minutes, Amaluzor was denied a brace thanks to a block from Mair who was quickly off his line.

The visitors did seal the three points eventually, albeit in controversial fashion. Robbie Tinkler involved in a tussle with Dior Angus initially thought he was fouled on the left touchline, though the resulting throw in certainly should have gone in the favour of Gateshead.

Dior Angus and Justin Donawa as a result were able to quickly break away, and though the former’s initial strike was parried away, the ball fell kindly into the path of Donawa who tapped home his first of the campaign.

An important win for an Altrincham side who remain comfortably in the playoff positions in fourth, five points ahead of seventh placed Hartlepool. The victory also meant Phil Parkinson’s side are now unbeaten in their last seven, whilst being the only side in the National League to have won their last five.

Oldham will face a formidable side, who at home are unbeaten in their last three. Their appearance in this round last season initially came at the J.Davidson Stadium, where they played out a 2-2 draw with Gateshead before losing out in the replay thanks to an Adam Campbell brace.

Gateshead have been somewhat a nuisance for Altrincham in the FA Cup. In 21/22 they were beaten once more by the Gates though in the first round, who again got over the line after a 3-2 win at Altrincham in the replay.

It will be the first meeting between Oldham and Altrincham this season, though in this fixture last season Conn Clarke will have fond memories after his goal was enough to secure a 1-0 win.

Both sides do have unbeaten records on the line, though a place in the first round of the FA Cup may be further up the list of priorities. The magic of this competition is something just a handful of clubs feels each season, whilst both teams will be desperate to feel that once again.

Key Threat

There’s no surprise Conn Clarke is at the top of the list when looking at potential threats on Saturday. The midfielder comes into the game in fine form and ranks as Altrincham’s top scorer so far this season having netted seven times in 14 starts.

Conn Clarke was busy as ever last weekend in the win at Gateshead. He wasn’t able to put his name on the score sheet but that doesn’t diminish the obvious threat he posed.

He was constantly involved, and at the heart of anything of substance for the visitors. His pressing and creative abilities were on full display for the opener, nicking the ball in Gateshead’s half before threading a decisive assist that would see Altrincham on their way to three points.

A special goal in the win against Aldershot Town earlier in the season highlighted his quality and decision making in the final third. Breezing past his marker from the left inside before whipping a wicked strike into the corner.

Close control, speed and decisiveness are just some of the attributes that make Conn Clarke such a threat. His constant eagerness to get involved and make things happen is something backlines have clearly found difficult to deal with.

His goal in the 1-0 win at Maidenhead also showed his ability to score important goals, and that he can take his chances when few come his way in a game. Oldham must keep tabs on a player that can be the difference in what could be a tight contest.

In the dugout

After taking over the club at the beginning of the 2017/18 season, Parkinson is slowly but surely approaching two centuries of fixtures in charge of Altrincham and has enjoyed his best start to a National League season after 15 games played.

In just his second managerial position of his career, Parkinson has seen to good progress at the J.Davidson Stadium. Initially in the Premier Division of the Northern Premier League, it took him no time to lead Altrincham to a title winning season, clinching the honour in his first season.

It was in impressive fashion with a side he had only been with for a year. His side led the division for goals scored but remarkably conceded just 42 times in 46 fixtures, making that less than a goal conceded per game.

Up to the sixth tier of the football pyramid in the following season, Parkinson’s Altrincham remained a threat, finishing a solid fifth place whilst once again concluding the season as the highest scorers (85).

After securing a playoff berth, the man in the hot seat was unable to grab consecutive promotions, after losing out to Chorley on penalties after a 1-1 draw in normal time.

The 2019/20 season saw a shortened calendar, but it was a pivotal year for Parkinson. He had lost his last two playoff appearances with defeat coming in the semi-final on both occasions, his first coming during his time at Nantwich Town.

A consecutive fifth place finish saw Altrincham comfortably into the playoffs which saw a convincing performance. Parkinson’s men got past Chester, York City and Boston United in the final, whilst the latter two sides had finished above them in the standings.

His first taste of National League football came in the 20/21 campaign which saw he and his side struggle to get to grips with the lift in competition. Parkinson managed to guide his men to a 17th place finish though it was sure to be a wakeup call that their level had to be raised.

Parkinson did oversee a slight improvement the following season but remained a way off a playoff berth, whilst last campaign saw another struggle to find form and momentum.

This season however has seen an astounding jump from Altrincham. 27 points from the opening 15 games sees Parkinson’s side just three points off third placed Solihull Moors, whilst it has seen the club record their best start after this number of games under Parkinson.

A win at the weekend would mark a special occasion for the Altrincham boss who has yet to secure a win in the FA Cup with his only appearance in the competition coming in the 21/22 season which saw a loss to Gateshead after a replay.

An appearance in the official rounds of England’s most prestigious cup competition would be a historic occasion for the club and manager, who will be desperate to secure their sixth consecutive win in all competitions.

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