ALTRINCHAM 1, NOTTS COUNTY 1
Notts County, the world’s oldest football team and one of 12 founder members of the Football League in 1988, are making hard work of their bid to get out of the National League.
Regaining the newly named EFL place they lost in 2019 is proving challenging as County’s promotion hopes are hanging by a thread after picking up two points from a possible 18, a run which has seen them slip to 10th place.
And a change of manager – Ian Burchnall replacing Neal Ardley in late March – has failed to improve fortunes during the business end of the campaign, though they remain only two points outside the top seven.
Since taking charge Burchnall has won only two out of his nine league games as they continue to stumble towards the finish line to the season as are 17th placed Altrincham who halted a run of four straight losses.
In the battle of the birds, Robins and Magpies, the dynamics of the two sides contrasted greatly.
Altrincham have a side with precious little EFL experience, a nucleus of non-league players and young professional released by professional teams.
County, by comparison, have a side including seasoned campaigners like Michael Doyle, Ben Turner, Mark Ellis and Luke Steele.
Robins’ goalkeeper Tony Thompson had to be alert early in the game to acrobatically tip over a header from visiting striker Kyle Wootton.
Altrincham came close to breaking the deadlock after an audacious effort from Smith.
Former Manchester United goalkeeper Steele raced out of his area and his clearance fell to the midfielder in the centre circle just inside the Notts County half.
Former Mansfield Town player Smith, 21, took aim from near 50 yards only to see his shot fly narrowly wide with Steele scurrying back and in no-man’s land.
Altrincham made the breakthrough in the 24th minute when Smith, signed permanently in January after a loan from Mansfield, scored for his second successive Saturday and his third of the season.
A poor touch from Rodriguez enabled Dan Mooney to steal possession as he fed Smith who galloped forward before finding the bottom corner with a fabulous 25-yard drive.
But just as happened last weekend in the home defeat by Barnet, Altrincham conceded a goal in first half stoppage time,
Reagan Ogle was booked for a foul 25 yard out and Rodriguez bent a free kick over the defensive wall and into the bottom corner, the Portuguese midfield player’s fifth goal of the season.
Thompson denied Wootton for a second time early in the second period with a smart save low to his right and later made an important block to deny Enzio Boldwijn.
Yet Altrincham had chances to claim all three points as former Crewe, Wigan and Scunthorpe winger Colclough bent an effort narrowly wide and forced a fine save from Steele who also blocked Tom Peers’ follow-up while Joel Senior fired just past the upright when he looked set to score.