By Stephen Burton
After securing their highest ever league finish on Saturday, Spartans now travel to Moss Lane to take on Altrincham in the National League North playoffs.
Spartans have now won seven games in a row and the 2-1 win over Southport saw them secure sixth place in the league. They face an Altrincham side who finished two points above Spartans in fifth.
Spartans are currently unbeaten against Altrincham this season, drawing 1-1 away from home in their last encounter which marked the start of Spartans’ current 10 game unbeaten run. The first meeting between the sides this term was back in September, and resulted in a 2-1 win for the hosts at Croft Park, with Jarrett Rivers and Sean Reid getting on the scoresheet.
Altrincham go into the game on a good run of form themselves, with only one defeat in their last 12 league games, a 2-1 reverse at home to third place Brackley Town. Their form during April has seen them register an impressive 5-3 win over league runner’s up Chorley, and a 7-0 thrashing away to Alfreton Town.
Despite their form however, Altrincham could only muster a 1-1 draw away at relegated Ashton United last Saturday. Liam Tomsett put the home side ahead after just two minutes, before Jake Moult equalised for Altrincham after 20 minutes.
The tale of the tape:
There have been 21 meetings between the sides in total, with Spartans only getting the better of Altrincham on 5 occasions with 8 draws
The most memorable encounter between the two sides was no doubt a 4-1 win in the FA Cup First Round in November 2014. Robbie Dale and Dan Maguire bagged a brace each to set Spartans up on another famous cup run, which ultimately ended against Birmingham City in the Third Round.
Phil Parkinson has been in charge since April 2017 after the club were relegated from the National League North. He helped the club secure promotion from the Northern Premier League at the first attempt in the 2017/18 season. Parkinson’s tenure has seen a remarkable turnaround in fortunes for the club that had suffered two successive relegations before he took charge.
The key men:
Altrincham have been the National League North’s most prolific side this season with 85 goals scored, so it is perhaps no surprise that they have two players amongst the division’s leading scorers. Josh Hancock has scored an impressive total of 17 goals from midfield this season, with striker Jordan Hulme helping himself to 15. The numbers are all the more impressive considering neither player is Altrincham’s spot-kick taker.
Spartans team news and milestones:
Spartans’ end of season form of seven straight wins is their best run-in for 32 years, where Jim Pearson’s side helped themselves to eight successive victories to claim the Northern League title.
Spartans are unbeaten away from home against other members of the top seven this season.