A heartbreaking play-off defeat ended Altrincham’s season after the club secured a top-five spot with a game to spare, but it was a year of much success.
Lee Sinnott’s free-scoring side netted on a regular basis and led the play-off tie after Jake Moult’s superb last-gasp winner in the first leg.
But it was not to be for the Robins, as a disappointing 3-0 return leg saw their promotion dream end abruptly in the Midlands town of Brackley.
The Robins also forced an FA Cup replay with League Two Burton Albion after a 3-3 draw, but went down 2-0 in a replay at Moss Lane.
Alty started the season with three defeats in four but a run of six unbeaten saw them climb the table before three losses on the bounce marked the end of October.
They recovered to go eight games undefeated over Christmas until back-to-back defeats against Histon and Workington in February.
This marked the start of a promotion charge, however, as Alty lost just once in 16, winning 11 and securing the final play-off spot with one game remaining.
Sinnott insisted he and assistant Neil Tolsen were determined to instil belief into the players, which he feels was clearly evident in the latter part of the campaign.
“It’s about giving the players the confidence to play,” he explained. “I know we haven’t got anywhere near as many points as Chester but we’ve got 100 goals and that shows we’re doing something right.
“The football the players have played is a joy to watch. And let’s face it, you don’t score from every attempt so think how many more attempts we’ve been creating.”
Sinnott also praised the work of physio Alan Ainsley in keeping every member of his small squad fit throughout the campaign.
“Our physio has bent over backwards and looked after everybody tremendously,” said Sinnott. “The players have relied on each other and they have certainly grown with each other since the end of the season.”
Captain Shaun Densmore took pride in the defensive efforts across the campaign, as Alty recovered from a poor start to the season to lose just once in their final 16 league games.
“I think I’ve been pretty steady,” he said. “As a back four we’ve got better – it’s tricky when you don’t know players and we’ve pretty much had a new defence this season.
“We’ve only had five defenders to play the positions so to get through the season like that is something to be proud of.”
Youngster Duncan Watmore netted 14 times for Alty in his breakthrough season, including a stunning solo effort against Corby when he sprinted from inside his own half.
The Robins front-man was glad Sinnott offered him the opportunity to get game-time and several top-notch performances have seen the youngster scouted by a host of Football League clubs.
“I’ve really enjoyed it this season,” he said. “I only started the last game of last season so to get a foothold in the team straight away and score a goal in the first game this season at Brackley was a good start.
“I’ve been happy all season and I have scored some good goals along the way and I’m fortunate to do so.”
The sixth goal against Droylsden on the final day marked 100 league strikes for the campaign, a major factor in the Robins’ push for the play-offs.
Top-scorer Damian Reeves was in fine form again this season, netting more than a third of Alty’s league goals and the clinical marksman was relieved to see the goals keep flying in.
“It’s been a really good season for myself,” he said. “It was difficult to have a target, as after last season anybody looking at it would think that to score another 40 goals the season after would be a little bit far-fetched.
“I got to 30 just after Christmas and just thought I’d have a crack at how many I can get this year.
“It’s all tongue-in-cheek, at the beginning of the season I was saying I was going to beat last year and I nearly have!”
Reeves was thankful to his team-mates for creating the chances for him, insisting Altrincham’s fluent passing style had helped him to find the net so often.
“You can’t score 41 goals in a season and think it’s all your own doing,” he said. “You’ve got to have the players around you to supply you the ball and to put the ball in the right places.
“It’s all well and good being in the right places but if the balls are not coming you can’t score goals!”
Altrincham secured 24 league victories in the campaign and will look to build on that success as Densmore, Reeves and Watmore are three of nine players already signed up for next season’s campaign.
They join Moult, Gianluca Havern, Nicky Clee, Simon Richman, Scott Leather and James Lawrie in being under contract for the 2013/14 season.
Picture courtesy of GR Photography, with thanks.