Celtic travel to Moss Lane on Tuesday night for a 7:45 kick off knowing that a win would virtually seal their spot in the Conference North thanks to Runcorn losing 'at home' to Hucknall. However, Altrincham may have something to say about that standing just two points outside the Conference play off spots, a win for them is just as vital.
Unbeaten in five games, Altrincham are currently sixth in the table, on sixty-five points, fourteen places and sixteen points ahead of Celtic. Apart from an early season blip, Altrincham have been up in or around the play off spots all season, dropping as low as twelfth early on, but then getting up to fourth for a while. They are unbeaten in five games, winning their last two, at home to Worcester, and away at Bradford. It was Altrincham who sealed Bradford's relegation. Though they drew their previous home game against Hucknall, they beat Hinckley 4-1 in the home game prior to that. Their last defeat at home was the game before that when Ashton beat them 2-1 in mid-March. Generally, their home record has been exceptional this season, losing only three times (Alfreton and Moor Green were the other two). The fact that relegation teams like Moor Green and Ashton can come away from Moss Lane has to be encouraging. Runcorn and Bradford both got draws there, too.
They have taken off Gainsborough and Stafford, and not one team has taken all six points off Altrincham this season. Indeed, they have taken at least three points from every team they have played this season. So far they have taken one point from Celtic after a draw way back in August. A Celtic win would be a first against Altrincham, leaving them with just one point off Celtic ? even a draw would be a dent in Altrincham's stats.
If Altrincham have a bogey team, it is Celtic. Though we have only beaten them once in the league at Moss Lane in the past fifteen years, the last four encounters have seen Altrincham fail to beat us at Moss Lane. December 1998 was their last league victory over us in Altrincham. This is another plus point for the game, though these plus points are few. Another would be that Altrincham have scored more own goals than any other team, though it is only two...
They have the best defensive record in the league (conceding only 41 goals all season) and have the fifth best attack (scoring sixty goals this season).
In their last five games, they have scored ten goals and conceded only three. Their man of the moment is Colin Little who has six of the ten goals. Unsurprisingly, Colin Little is their top scorer, with twenty goals this season (he likes to score most just before half time). He is joint third in the top twenty-goal scorers chart. Colin Potts isn't doing too badly either, with nine goals, though his goal was fourteen games ago against Lancaster. He likes scoring against former teams, and it was Potts who scored against us back in August. Most of Altrincham's goals are coming in the second half, though they have scored seven in the dying period of the first half, with another fourteen in the last ten minutes of their games. Defensively, they have conceded eight around the twenty minute mark, seven just before half time, and five in stoppage time.
Altrincham are injury hit at the moment, though it hasn't stopped them from winning their games! Steve Aspinall picked up an ankle injury against Bradford, whilst Mark Maddox is out with a groin strain. Colin Potts and Gary Scott may feature, though neither is fully fit. They don't have any suspension worries though.
In their last outing, the 2-0 win at home against Worcester, they lines up as:
1. Stuart Coburn
2. Gary Scott
3. Chris Adams
4. George Melling
5. Gary Talbot
6. Eddie Hussin
7. Richard Norris
8. Val Owen
9. Colin Little
10. Rod Thornley
11. Kirk Hilton
Celtic will have been glad of the rest over Saturday, especially given their run in. Danny Caldecott requires a fitness test, and Chris Denham is also sidelined through injury. Celtic lined up in their 2-1 loss at home to Kettering as:
1. Craig Dootson
2. Grant Black
3. Nathan Wharton
4. Barrie Keeling
5. Paul Sykes
6. Paul Shepherd
7. Mark Atkins
8. Scott Bonsall
9. Andy Parton
10. Andy Hayward
11. Steve Smith
Celtic needs to up the ante in this game against Altrincham. We have a good record against them, and this needs to be moved into a win. Whilst a loss wouldn't end our survival hopes, a win could virtually ensure them.
On a final note, if the game is postponed again, it will take place on Thursday. With Celtic playing Saturday-Monday-Wednesday-Saturday a later date is impossible.