View From The Dugout

View from the Dugout: We’re going into the unknown, but what a chance to take a step closer to the National League

By Tom Scotson at

Ahead of tomorrow’s Vanarama National League North play-off against Chester, Altrincham assistant boss Neil Sorvel has this week’s View from the Dugout…

As every Altrincham supporter will be only too well aware, all three National League divisions were suspended in March, due to coronavirus.

After much anticipation, and to the delight of everyone at our club, the National League subsequently confirmed that staging play-offs would be possible, and they will take place between 17th July and 2nd August.

Our fifth-placed finish was also confirmed, and on that basis, we enter the play-offs with a knock-out eliminator against sixth-placed local rivals Chester at The J Davidson Stadium tomorrow (kick-off 1.30pm).

As with all the National League North play-off games, the winner will be decided on the day and after 90 minutes. If there is no outright winner at the end of normal time, the outcome will be determined by a penalty shoot-out.

Neil Sorvel (right) with Robins manager Phil Parkinson

Historically, fixtures against Chester have been very tight affairs. The only exception to this was our 4-0 home win against them last season, though even that was heavily influenced by a sending-off for the visitors early on in the second-half.

More importantly, the three games against Chester this season have ended in very close scorelines. Against a tough opposition, we have had to make sure that we are well drilled and organised.

And credit to the players, we look and feel prepared. Since our first week in training, the players have looked bright, sharp and ready to go. We have even been training at the stadium, rather than our usual venue, just to familiarise ourselves with the surroundings once again and hopefully give us that cutting edge.

But fundamentally, although we have tried to prepare as much as we can for such an occasion, no football club has faced circumstances like this before; we’re going into the unknown.

James Jones got the only goal when the Robins beat Chester back in September

When we started our play-off campaign last season against Blyth Spartans, the atmosphere was phenomenal. But with no crowd this year, things are going to be very different for everyone.

Without the fans, the players are going to have to create their own atmosphere. But in a game of this magnitude, which provides us with an invaluable opportunity to move one step closer to the National League, this should not be a problem.

Although there will be no crowd, this does not mean you cannot get behind the Robins on Sunday. The National League will be broadcasting all play-off games via a livestream on their website, and each one can be accessed on a Pay Per View (PPV) basis via this link.

Web browsers on pretty much any device can be used for the streaming platform. Smart TVs, games consoles, mobile phones, tablets are all compatible.

Alternatively, if you cannot watch the game on the day, you can listen to coverage on Radio Robins or follow the unfolding events via Twitter (@altrinchamfc).