One side loses half of their playing squad and is forced to make several emergency signings just hours before the game due to a covid case in the group. Another is visited for the first time by their Hollywood owners only to watch them fall to defeat and another manager loses his job with a home defeat that just couldn’t be forgiven. Not bad for a Tuesday night in the National League!
I was at Moss Lane to watch the game between Altrincham and Solihull for BT Sport and was shocked to learn on arrival that Phil Parkinson had lost half of his squad. This was down to government regulations around those that are unvaccinated needing to isolate for a 10 day period following the discovery of a board member testing positive for covid having sat on the team bus on the way home from Eastleigh at the weekend.
I interviewed Phil shortly after learning of their setback and he was as calm as usual but conceded that just how the two new signings that would start the game (Tom Walker and Barry Baggley) would settle into their new home would be anyone’s guess.
There was big talk of Solihull having gone 5 without conceding a single goal in all comps, but typically it was the home side who decided not to be defined by the chaos behind the scenes.
Walker combined with Josh Hancock who played a great reverse pass for Barry Baggley to emphatically finish the game’s opening goal making it look like they’d played together for longer than the 30 minutes they’d known each other!
Alty showed huge character to be so professional despite the setbacks and although they lead at the break, they were up against a better Solihull Moors side in the 2nd half. The returning Jamie Osbourne was excellent, even if his minutes were restricted by Ardley, who was clearly not taking any chances on his fitness so soon after his return from injury.
What really stood out is how versatile the Moors squad is bringing on Andy Dallas and then Joe Sbarra for the winner and his 8th of the season. They evidently have a number of ways they can go about winning games of football and surely have one of the strongest squads in the league.
I don’t think Ardley knows his strongest XI, but that’s always a good problem for a manager. They’re enjoying a good run without playing their best football and with everyone fit he can rotate and freshen it up and then use a strong bench if there’s still work to be done. It was a win that takes them to 5th with the best record over the last 10 games in the whole league (except Bromley who have a better GD).
I asked Parkinson afterwards if he would need to sign more and he couldn’t rule anything out but did refer to the issue he’d have when everyone was available for selection again. You have to feel for them with what is a very modern-day setback.
I also went to see Chesterfield beat Boreham Wood 2-1 at the weekend and I came away with a heightened respect for James Rowe and his injury ravaged side that despite being without 8 first team players still manage to produce match winning performances.
Having Danny Rowe and Kabongo Tshimanga helps and the league’s top scorer was always going to score against his old side wasn’t he? It was a deserved victory and you wonder how much better they can be when they start getting some of their players back.
Boreham Wood lost Ashmore to injury and Evans to suspension following his sending off with 5 minutes to go. Speaking to Garrard after the game he gave the impression his squad depth would be tested with those two absentees, but they still managed a 1-0 win away at King’s Lynn on Tuesday so credit to them for bouncing back.
You have to take a look at some of the managers mentioned above and ask when the EFL will come knocking for them. Phil Parkinson has 18 months left on his contract and I’d be astounded if he wasn’t of interest.
I think a lot of us feel like James Rowe will get there with Chesterfield this season or next and Luke Garrard seems to be on his 2nd or 3rd contract extension at Boreham Wood but clearly feels at home where he is for now.
Barnet v Aldershot for me at the weekend. Dean Brennan has lost just once in 5, well and truly turning their fortunes around. Can that form be sustained? The signings of Ryan De Havilland and Sam Woods from Fulham and Crystal Palace respectively are interesting.
Their 2-1 win v Stockport at Edgeley Park ultimately cost Simon Rusk his job and put more distance between Barnet and the relegation places. This one’s probably more vital for Mark Molesley and Aldershot given they’ve lost 4 since his arrival with only the win v Dover to cheer about. Plenty of time to turn things around but they only have 7 points after 12 and they still haven’t won a game at home.