Altrincham are back at the top level of non-league football, and have the look of a side which won't be looking over its shoulder this season. A solid start was followed by a mid-November wobble, but they arrive at The Racecourse in fine form, having won 3 of their last 4 matches. With high-flying Maidenhead their most recent victims, a week after a fine win at Borehamwood, clearly The Robins shouldn't be under-estimated.
Altrincham's up-and-down form can partly be explained by the odd look to their fixtures so far. Everyone's campaign has been disrupted, of course, but it has left The Robins with a very lop-sided schedule. They had to endure five consecutive away games at the beginning of the season, but since then have played 5 home games out of 6. Subsequently, this is only their second away game since Halloween, but their away form is terrific: they've lost just 1 in 5 games on the road, winning 2 of their last 3.
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ALTRINCHAM'S LINE-UP LAST SATURDAY
HEAD TO HEAD
This is the first time we’ve played Altrincham in three and a half years. Their last visit to The Racecourse was in the early days of Gary Mills’ reign, when hopes were high that he would be able to fashion a side capable of promotion.
We’d already won our first five home games under Mills, scoring three goals in all but one, and we were two-thirds of the way towards hitting three again by the break, through an own goal and a Blaine Hudson strike.
Alty pulled a goal back shortly after the interval, but James Grey struck to secure a 3-1 win.
Before that match, Altrincham’s visits to The Racecourse had been characterised by a series of red cards.
Their visit in November 2014 ended nine against ten as the match turned dramatically just before the break.
Wrexham seemed to be strolling to a comprehensive win, Elliott Durrell and Louis Moult having given us a 2-0 lead against a 10-man Altrincham, as Scott Leather, the scorer of that own goal in 2015, had been dismissed for a wild tackle.
However, a hugely contentious red card shown to Moult in the second minute of added time at the end of the first half, turned the match on its head.
Ten minutes later Andy Bishop followed Moult down the tunnel and Kevin Wilkin decided to defend the lead. It turned out to be a fatal decision, as Wrexham finally cracked under constant pressure and conceded three goals in nine minutes.
We also paid the price after a sending off in March 2010 when The Robins arrived for a league match. We’d gone ahead early on through Wes Baynes but the game took on a fractious air as we failed to capitalise on our initial superiority. The match turned in Altrincham’s favour when Frank Sinclair was dismissed for a wild challenge which broke the leg of ex-Wrexham captain Tom Kearney.
We failed to recover from the loss of the centre back and were punished with eight minutes left when Greg Young struck to earn Altrincham a draw.
As you might have deduced, our home record against Altrincham isn’t great. In fact, it’s considerably better on their patch, where we’ve run up a couple of convincing victories.
The previous time we beat them at The Racecourse was in February 2011. It was a tight scrap though, as Altrincham put late pressure on us to earn a draw. Andy Morrell gave us the lead just before the break and we looked home and dry when Adrian Cieslewicz put us 2-0 up with five minutes left. However, Alty immediately pulled one back and we had to dig in to clinch the points.
Our only other home win over Altrincham came back in November 1963, when we clashed in the first round of the FA Cup. We’d had to work hard to avoid an upset in at Moss Lane initially, emerging with a goalless draw, but were more comfortable in the replay. Mickey Metcalf scored two and Tecwyn Jones got the other in a 3-0 win.
Jamie Reckord v Matty Kosylo
Jamie Reckord delivered perhaps his most complete performance in a Wrexham shirt at Bromley. Solid in defence and typically confident on the ball going forward, he was crucial during the periods when The Ravens threatened to increase their lead and take the game out of our reach.
He'll face an interesting challenge from Matty Kosylo, though. Kosylo has crossed our paths many times in recent seasons, and remains one of the most mercurial characters in the National League. An aggressive little winger, full of pace and energy, he can go either way, and will track back assiduously to cover Reckord's forward surges.
He can get into trouble with officials - this would have been the second game of a three-match ban he picked up after a red card he picked up last Tuesday, but the punishment was rescinded. He can also win matches though: his showreel is spectacular, with clean strikes of the ball from the edge of the box a speciality.
WREXHAM'S RECORD AGAINST ALTRINCHAM