Altrincham reached the FA Cup 1st Round by coming from behind to defeat Matlock Town on my first ever visit to Moss Lane.
For those involved, the 4th and final qualifying round of the FA Cup is one of the most highly anticipated days of the season. The 48 teams left at this stage of the competition know that they are potentially only 90 minutes away from the possibility of a meeting with league clubs such as Bolton Wanderers, Coventy City and Charlton Athletic.
In our opinion, one of the most attractive ties of the round saw National North side Altrincham, who reached the 2nd round last year, host a team from the division below in Derbyshire’s Matlock Town, who had already had to defeat Heanor Town, Kidsgrove Athletic and Workington to reach this stage.
Altrincham, who were relegated last season, had made a difficult start to life in the National North and it was only last weekend that they had finally got a league victory under their belt at the 13th time of asking – defeating Stalybridge Celtic 2-0.
However, victories over Gainsborough Trinity and Morpeth Town had left ‘Alty’ just one win from the first round proper, where they had beaten Barnsley last season, and they will have been many people’s favourites heading into the contest based on being division above their opponents.
But as the game got underway in front of over 1,000 spectators at Moss Lane, which is a very traditional style ground that was opened in 1910, it quickly became apparent that Matlock were not simply there for the day out as they dominated the early stages.
Kicking towards their faithful followers behind the goal, the Gladiators could have scored on numerous more occasions in the opening half hour before Niall McManus finally broke the deadlock with a low strike into the bottom corner in the 31st minute.
The lead lasted a mere four minutes, however, before 30-year-old Damian Reeves fired an accurate strike past the Matlock goalkeeper to send the two teams to the dressing rooms at the interval level, a scoreline that the hosts will have been far happier with than their lower-league opponents.
And unfortunately for the once-dominant visitors, two goals in a five minute spell for Altrincham appeared to kill off the tie. Both goals were scored by forward Sean Miller; the first being a simple finish from close range before an effort from distance flew past the goalkeeper to make it 3-1 with 52 minutes on the clock.
Following a quiet spell in the contest, the visitors were offered a glimmer of hope when they were awarded a penalty with ten minutes to go. However, just as a goal may have set up a nervy conclusion, Marc Newsham failed to hold his nerve and sent the spot kick high over the crossbar.
Altrincham’s Tom Hannigan received a red card for a high challenge a few moments later, but it made little difference as the hosts saw out the 3-1 victory to earn their place in the first round proper, where they will be hoping to keep up their long and famous history of cup giant-killings.
Altrincham 3–1 Matlock Town
Niall McManus ’31, Damian Reeves ’37, Sean Miller ’47 ’52