Barry Pikesley

Crosstown Trafford

From the Robins' Review of 5 October 2013.

"Whilst trudging disconsolately out of Trafford FC’s sun-drenched Shawe View ground last Saturday in the aftermath of the Robins’ ignominious 2-1 elimination from the FA Cup, I was tempted to approach one of the home club’s officials and utter a slight adaptation of a quip that is generally attributed to Groucho Marx: “I’ve had a perfectly wonderful afternoon, but this wasn’t it.”

To put the aforementioned abject, perfunctory and unacceptable performance into some kind of sombre context, it constituted only the third occasion in the last 50 seasons that Alty have exited the FA Cup in the month of September.

For the record, our other two premature departures from that particular competition at the first hurdle comprise Mark Ward‘s team waving the white flag in a wretched 3-0 defeat against Mossley at Moss Lane on Saturday, 30th September 2000 and Graham Heathcote’s side offering meagre resistance in a dispiriting 2-0 reverse at Lancaster City on Saturday, 27th September 2003.

Full marks to Trafford, who seized the initiative from the kick-off and proved to be the better side by a comfortable margin. Their passing exhibited far more accuracy and was much more inventive than ours; their attacking play carried a much greater menace than our comparatively tame efforts in that department and in their central defender and captain, Nia Bayunu, they possessed the outstanding player on the pitch on the day.

As for the misfiring Robins, well, the season plummeted to a costly nadir (or at least I sincerely hope that’s going to remain our nadir during this campaign!) and I honestly don‘t think that I‘ve felt so crestfallen after an Alty match since that infamous capitulation versus Eastbourne Borough condemned us to relegation in the concluding fixture of the 2010/11 Blue Square Bet Premier season.

Facing a team who were lying in 19th position in the league below us (having lost seven of their 10 league games to date since achieving promotion back in May of this year), we hardly tested a 17-year-old on-loan goalkeeper who was making merely his second appearance for the club. Alas, Lee Sinnott’s men were disconcertingly lacklustre; plagued by frustratingly haphazard passing; displayed a dearth of creativity and were largely one-dimensional in their attacking play with virtually nothing of any substance emanating from the right flank. All in all, it was an embarrassment of poverty.

Along with the rest of us, the Alty Directors must have felt like weeping as the prospect of receiving a welcome cheque for £4,500 from the FA simply evaporated. And, as we observed last season, it’s possible to accumulate a relatively decent sum in FA Cup prize money (allied to the income received for any accompanying TV coverage) without even having to defeat a team from a higher division.

The Robins’ proud FA Cup heritage has been somewhat tarnished by a total of nine defeats against teams from a lower league in the last 25 seasons. In chronological order, our conquerors have been: Tow Law Town (1989/90); Winsford United (1991/92); Accrington Stanley (1993/94); Ashton United (1998/99); Stalybridge Celtic (1999/00); Mossley (2000/01); Guiseley (2002/03); Witton Albion (2011/12) and our neighbours from Trafford.

Two of those FA Cup atrocities have occurred on Lee Sinnott and Neil Tolson’s watch. For my money, their path to redemption lies solely in proceeding to secure promotion from this division during the 2013/14 campaign. Gentlemen, I don’t care whether you attain atonement by winning the title or even by means of the excruciating route of the play-offs, but please, please, please, let me get what I want and just get us out of this league!

On to a happier topic and I am delighted to say that I have actually witnessed an Altrincham FC team progress in an FA competition this season in the guise of George Heslop’s Youth Team, who achieved a thrilling 5-4 victory at Runcorn Town just under a fortnight ago in their FA Youth Cup First Qualifying Round tie. The hosts were 1-0 up at the interval, however, an astonishing eight-goal second half culminated in centre forward Max Pouncey’s dramatic winner for the Robins in the sixth minute of additional time.

Good luck to them against Vauxhall Motors in the next round, which I believe is scheduled to be staged at the J Davidson Stadium on Thursday, 10th October 2013. I’m sure that a few twirls of that legendary Heslop moustache in the style of a silent movie villain will inspire his charges to another triumph.

So to this afternoon’s Skrill North encounter with a transitional Guiseley outfit who are currently languishing in a rather unfamiliar 17th spot in the league table, having recently sacked their manager Steve Kittrick. His successor, player-manager Mark Bower, has so far seen all of his four games in charge of the Lions end in defeat, including last Saturday’s 2-1 setback in the FA Cup at the hands of Bradford Park Avenue.

Here’s a quick Alty FC trivia question for you: name the player who scored the Robins’ first goal against Guiseley on the occasion of the Nethermoor Park club’s debut at Moss Lane. The answer will be revealed in the last paragraph of this article.

It’s over fourteen years since we last recorded a victory over this afternoon’s opponents at Moss Lane. A 1-0 win in a Unibond League Premier Division fixture enacted on Saturday, 2nd January 1999, to be precise, when I recollect Paul Ellender’s 87th minute goal at the Golf Road End engendering scenes of unbridled elation around the stadium. Let’s hope for a similar outbreak of euphoria amongst the home supporters today.

Last season saw Guiseley accomplish their first victory at Moss Lane, courtesy of two goals in the final seven minutes of the game from a substitute by the name of James Walshaw that clinched a 3-1 win in front of 698 spectators (one of whom amongst the Guiseley contingent on the terraces was a certain Joey Barton, who was present to watch his cousin Josh Wilson). Danny Boshell also played for the Lions on that Tuesday evening back in October of last year.

The last time that we crashed out of the FA Cup to a lower league club (i.e. against Witton Albion at Moss Lane two years ago) at least elicited an extremely positive response seven days later in the ensuing league fixture. Boston United were put to the sword on that particular afternoon and subjected to a 6-1 trouncing at Moss Lane, which included a hat-trick from Damian Reeves.

Here’s to another Alty backlash to an FA Cup debacle duly unfolding this afternoon, in which our leading goalscorer for the past three seasons gets the opportunity to emulate his feat of Saturday, 8th October 2011.

Finally, to the identity of the man who scored Alty’s first goal against Guiseley when the West Yorkshire club made their first ever appearance at Moss Lane back on Saturday, 24th January 1998 in a Unibond League Premier Division contest. Well, it was none other than the fleet-footed but exasperatingly erratic Danny McGoona, who fired home a 67th minute shot after a corner had only been partially cleared. Five minutes later, the undeniably portly but immensely adroit Tony Kelly sent the goalkeeper the wrong way from the penalty spot to seal a 2-0 victory for the Robins".