Starting from Scratch – Part 11

Twitterless Matthew Cooper has worked wonders with Altrincham. Promotion at the first attempt has been followed up with a solid summer. Can he build on the initial success? Catch up with part 10 here.

Hello, hello. We’ve made a good start in Division 2, but it’s too early to tell if a second (technically third, with the initial promotion from non-league) promotion is on the cards just yet. Let’s see if we can keep that momentum from last time going.

We pay the price for finishing with 9 men against Reading as both Hughes and Taggart are suspended, but it’s pretty fortuitous timing as we face bottom club Bristol City at home. They come to our stadium off the back of 9 straight defeats and I’m eager to put that figure into double digits. N’Diaye is too tired to start from the last match so Zerrouki steps in, and there’s a start for newly-signed keeper Roberts. Moyes, my replacement wingback, makes his debut despite apparently being in horrendous form.

1

It’s a very pleasing performance, as Zerrouki nets twice in the first ten minutes and we boss the game. They hit us on the counter a few times but Roberts proves to be the safe pair of hands we’ve been missing lately and we keep a clean sheet. After the game, things get even better as we’re drawn to play today’s hapless opponents again in the first round of the FA Cup

2

Luton are the next team to visit Moss Lane, and they are a bit of a bogey team for me in general. I don’t know why but they just seem to be one of those teams that always get one over on me, regardless of who I’m managing. I have a full squad to choose from as my pair of suspended players are once again available, and N’Diaye is fully rested.

3

The hoodoo is lifted as we prevail after a difficult period in the middle of the game. We go in front after 3 minutes, Allardyce running behind and coolly finishing. They equalise soon after, but we look to have wrested back the lead on 20 minutes only for it to be ruled offside. They literally score 1 minute later and a 2-1 lead has become a 2-1 deficit. I feel the curse of Luton is set to continue, but we keep hammering away and N’Diaye heads us level, before wingback hunter scores a rebound to edge us in front. The score remains the same as we get a fully deserved 3 points. A fairly indifferent performance by both Roberts and our new striker Harris are a slight blot on the copybook, but the victory is more important.

Not content with bagging Williamson earlier in the season, Bolton come back for his strike partner Tokely and lodge a £3.2m bid. Wimbledon also are in the hunt for him but offer a paltry £2.7m, which I plan to refuse. To replace him I’m going to need a proven goalscorer – step forward Mr Tomlinson:

4

He got 19 goals last season, which on the face of it doesn’t sound too impressive but when you factor in that he was playing in relegated Doncaster’s joke of a team, it’s bordering on miraculous. I launch a £825k bid to rescue him from his non-league limbo. I make Tokely available and set his true asking price, which is £3.9m. If Wimbledon get away with their lowball bid at the tribunal I will not be happy.

N’Diaye is fatigued again for the next game, away at 22nd placed Swindon, but I start him anyway with a view to subbing him later on. Tokely is unavailable for what is likely to be his last game as an Altrincham player, as he’s away with the Scotland U21 squad so Harris gets his first start.

5

It’s a disappointing game for Harris as he spurns 3 clear-cut chances in the first half. Allardyce can still be relied upon however, and he puts us in front soon after the restart. I’ll be much happier when Tomlinson is on board as if we keep missing so many scoring chances we’re going to be punished before long.

The transfer drags on and Tokely gets one last chance to say farewell to our supporters, away at Southend. He’s at 76% fitness after his U21 efforts but why should I give a shit? He’s leaving tomorrow anyway so I may as well work him to the bone.

6

It’s not exactly a fairytale end to his time here as he fails to get on the scoresheet but we win nevertheless, thanks to the charity of Southend defender Mark Jones who heads a corner into his own net midway through the second half. Roberts earns his corn with a string of fine saves and I shudder to think what the scoreline would have been if Hammond was still between the sticks.

I’d almost forgotten old man Wilkins was still with us, but he reminds me with yet another back injury

7

Don’t feel sorry for him, it’s his own fault for not doing the decent thing and retiring last season. His contract is coming to an end so he’s out on his arse whatever happens at the end of the season. Tokely chooses to follow Williamson to the Wanderers and the tribunal knocks the sale price up a few notches

8

Tomlinson signs on the same day so we’re back to a full strength forward line at least

9

This seems like a good time to review some of the players that got away, and how they’re doing at their new clubs. Striker Regis Williamson, who went for £3.6m to Bolton at the start of the season, has had limited chances to impress and has scored 1 from 3 appearances. Fan (well, my) favourite Jermaine Wright has been similarly restricted by Palace and has played only 5 times since he moved midway through last season. Left wingback Steve Strong has played 13 times for Man City so far but is failing to impress, averaging around 6 and a half. Probably the most successful export we have is Paul Hart, a central defender who was way down the pecking order here but is a regular for Swindon this season, averaging just under 7 in a struggling team which is decent enough.

Only 3 fixtures take place the following Wednesday, one of which is our away game at Plymouth. Tomlinson’s form is listed as a hyphen, which doesn’t bode well but he needs game time to turn that around so he starts in place of the departed Tokely. Taggart returns following his International commitments and Bound makes way.

10

Despite his form he makes a dream debut, scoring a hat trick and assisting both the other goals in a 5-3 win. There is cause for concern however, as Plymouth score from all 3 of their attempts on target in a real Jekyll and Hyde performance from Roberts considering his heroics at Southend. The match turns out to be our game in hand and the 3 points take us up to joint 1st place with Peterborough, with an equal amount of games played.

11

As I should be wrapping things up for this update, let’s have a quick look at how Colwyn Bay are getting on. Last time we checked they were precariously placed a couple of points above the bottom but evidently something has clicked with them and they’re now in the lofty position of 10th, a point off the playoff places

12

Bournemouth now have the dubious honour of bringing up the rear in Division 3, as Scarborough have finally got their act together after 2 seasons of scraping by and sit in the final playoff place

13

They’ve shed a couple of loan signings and brought in some more on permanent deals, which may have helped with stability and contributed towards more positive results

14

Anywho, that will do it for this update. Come back next week to see if we can hold on to our top spot and if Roberts proves to be a decent keeper or not – we may be dipping into the transfer market.

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