ALTRINCHAM 3, MAIDENHEAD UNITED 2
Chris Conn-Clarke scored twice and played a pivotal role for Altrincham who defeated Maidenhead United at the J Davidson Stadium to climb into the National League’s top 10.
The 21-year-old midfielder, on loan from League One club Fleetwood Town since August, was the catalyst for the Robins who extended their unbeaten run in league and cup to 10 games as they are now only two points outside the play-off spots.
It has been a spectacular improvement for Altrincham bearing in mind they failed to win any of their first nine league games and were bottom of the table in mid-September.
Altrincham’s rich vein of form has seen them score at least two goals a game for each of the last six matches as their games have certainly provided an abundance of entertainment.
That was again the case on a bitterly cold night when a crowd of 1,156 were treated to a open game in which Maidenhead, managed by former West Ham legend Alan Devonshire, played their part.
Egli Kaja and Eddie Jones had early chances for Altrincham before the visitors stole ahead in the 18th minute.
A poor headed clearance fell to Reece Smith whose half volley from outside the box flew high into the net, a terrific strike for the 20-year-old’s third goal of the season.
The goal was akin to poking a bear with a stick as the Robins hit back with vengeance.
Kaja’s strike was spectacularly headed over by visiting captain Alan Massey then from the resulting corner Jones’ effort was also cleared off the line.
Altrincham found a 25th minute equaliser from Conn-Clarke.
The midfielder struck a free kick from the right of the penalty area into the net off the far post, a great strike.
And seven minutes later, the Robins were ahead. Kaja fired over a low cross which goalkeeper Alexis Andre jnr fumbled and Marcus Dinanga scrambled home his fifth of the season from almost on the goalline.
Altrincham were in control until first half stoppage time when Maidenhead scored a surprise leveller.
A long ball over the home defence was misjudged by centre back James Jones enabling Shawn McCoulsky to run through and lob keeper Ollie Byrne with the ball going into the net off the far upright.
The lively Conn-Clarke forced an acrobatic tip over from Andre jnr with a shot from distance.
And it was Conn-Clarke, at the heart of all the Robins’ attacking moves, who put the home side ahead for a third time.
Maidenhead conceded a free kick on the edge of the box for which Cole Kpekawa was booked.
Conn-Clarke dealt further punishment with a thunderous free kick into the top corner, his ninth goal of the season and fifth in the last five games.
Altrincham ought to have added a fourth goal when Conn-Clarke set up Dinanga whose weak shot was easily saved and in the last minute of normal time substitute Connor Jennings raced through on goal only to fire narrowly wide.