I’ve got to be pleased with the start that we’ve made to life in the Vanarama National League North.
Whilst it took us 45 minutes to settle down in the season opener at home to Leamington on Saturday, we played very well in the 2nd half and whilst it was disappointing not to take all three points, we came back from going behind twice and it was certainly a better start than I have experienced in recent seasons and I’m told that it’s the fourth successive campaign that Altrincham have started with a home game but not been able to win.
Watch highlights of the opening day draw against Leamington:
Tuesday night at Southport was a terrific performance both in terms of skill and character. We were the better side for the majority of the game but after the Sandgrounders equalised, they put us under a fair bit of pressure, which we stood up to superbly, before John Johnston put us back in front with as stunning a goal as we are likely to see this season.
A 3-1 win away from home against a full-time professional team, that is highly fancied to do very well this season, bodes well, but we must keep our feet on the floor and not get too excited, particularly as we have another tough away game this weekend at Spennymoor Town.
This is a tough assignment in every sense of the word. We will be setting off at 10am on a three-hour-plus coach journey to face a team that did very well in their first campaign last season in this league following promotion from the Evo-Stik Premier Division through the play-offs the season before, where they beat my former club Nantwich in the semi-final (2-0) before a single goal was enough to see off Stourbridge in the Final.
That semi-final tie should have been my final game as manager of Nantwich, but Neil Sorvel looked after the team as I was unable to travel up to Durham, due to not being able to get time-off from work, which is the sort of thing that many of us who combine semi-professional football with a full-time job, have to contend with… even so, I was really disappointed and was only able to keep up with events at the Brewery Field via Twitter!
We have the same squad travelling up to the North East that did so well at the Merseyrail Community Stadium on Tuesday night. Shaun Densmore and Tom Hannigan will be in action for the reserves as part of their recovery from injury, joining Bay Downing from the first team squad who scored twice in a 3-1 victory over Egerton on Tuesday night. Frustratingly, Lloyd Bannister’s international clearance from Belgium hasn’t come through yet, so he will not be involved.
Spennymoor, like we have done, stuck with the majority of the players, last season, that got them promoted 15 months ago, but they have strengthened well bringing in the likes of David Foley from South Shields last season with Adam Boyes from Bradford Park Avenue & Jake Hibbs from Halifax, joining in the close season.
They are difficult to play against, as they combine skill with strength very well and that can be a formidable combination. We will be ready for the job in hand though and Neil and I are looking forward to building on the positive start that we have made to the new season in this higher division and continuing the upward momentum that we have within the club at present.
All pictures: Michael Ripley