Vanarama National League football is the prize on offer for either Altrincham FC or Boston United this weekend.
The stakes are high for both teams. For the Robins, it provides the opportunity for a relatively swift return to the Vanarama National League after their exit in 2016.
Boston United, however, have been out of the National League for a longer period of time. After being relegated from League Two in 2007 to the conference, they were immediately jettisoned from the Conference and into the National League North due to financial irregularities.
Ironically, this event reprieved Altrincham from relegation themselves, who were set to be demoted to the National League North after finishing fourth-bottom.
Since relegation the Minstermen have faced years of mid-table obscurity. But this season they have managed to charge a strong campaign. Due to a strong nucleus and excellent recruitment from Boston United’s management, they will be a difficult opposition to beat.
“They’re a team we really respect and a team we will really study… anything less than 100% and we’ll get beat it’s as simple as that,” said Phil Parkinson.
What will especially perturb both the players and staff at Altrincham FC is the fact that the last time Parkinson’s team played Boston they were on the end of a heavy 5-0 defeat.
“When we played them last, we were hitting a bad time, we were at our weakest as well and hit a team which in my opinion are the most improved team in the league.”
Nevertheless, Altrincham have overcome this blip; as an outfit they look not only cohesive but dangerous in front of goal. “Jordan [Hulme], Josh Hancock, Dan Mooney and Elliott Durrell really gave them [York City] a run around at times. It’s not just luck that happens, it’s been a lot of hard work at the training ground,” said Parkinson.
It will be an interesting encounter at The Jakeman’s Stadium, as both teams, prior to lockdown, were playing at their best.
“When you look back at the last 10 games [before lockdown], I think it was us and them at the top of the form table… the two teams who have been in-form probably deserve to be in the final from the work they’ve put in,” said Parkinson.
However good the Robins’ performances have been, Altrincham will be facing another team which have stronger financial resources at their disposal. “We’re fighting bigger budgets every single game we’re going into, teams that are hybrid or full-time. But we believe we’re good enough to go there and get a result.”
Nevertheless, Altrincham have faced Chester FC and York City in the play-offs thus far, who are both hybrid and full-time outfits respectively. In both games it was impossible to differentiate who was the full-time team. Hopefully this a good omen for the Robins, who look at their strongest in years.