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Worcester City 0 Altrincham 0
BEFORE kick-off, only goal difference kept Worcester City and Altrincham apart in the table.
It was still the case after 90 absorbing minutes at St George’s Lane when there was little to choose between the play-offs rivals.
Altrincham might have triumphed 3-0 in an FA Trophy clash to forget from City’s perspective in November but their latest encounter was a tight-knit affair from start to finish.
Both sides could point to moments that might have won it — Greg Mills being denied on several occasions by keeper Stuart Coburn and Danny Hall having his effort hacked off the line at the other end by Tyler Weir.
Equally, both sides were indebted to resolute defending which ensured parity was maintained throughout the chilly contest.
By that measure, a draw was the right result all round and both managers, Carl Heeley and Lee Sinnott, had few qualms with that.
Here we had two sides with ambitions of being in the end-of-season play-offs, both determined to try and seize the advantage in what is becoming an increasingly congested top half of Blue Square Bet North.
There were good performances across the park, notably the entire City back-line marshalled by the excellent Stuart Whitehead alongside the returning Lee Ayres and protected by keeper Glyn Thompson.
That led to a second successive clean sheet, following the 3-0 win at Colwyn Bay, and a firm foundation on which to build, even if the goals didn’t come.
For Altrincham, 26-goal top-scorer Damian Reeves was kept relatively quiet, another testament to City’s defending, but Jordan Sinnott, the manager’s son was a danger, and the arrival of Duncan Watmore gave them the edge in the second-half.
Watmore was the catalyst in the Robins’ victory two months ago and his introduction off the bench this time, following a two-week injury lay-off, kept the hosts on their toes.
When all is said and done, however, Heeley is likely to be the more disappointed of the two managers.
After all, his team had home advantage and, despite their undeniable hard graft, were unable to turn it into a victory.
This is something that has become a frustrating trait for Worcester and one that could prove pivotal come April.
Playing well and picking up a deserved point is all well and good but at some stage that is going to have to become three.
City have played four of the current top eight on home soil so far this season — Brackley, Halifax, Stalybridge and Altrincham — and last Saturday was their first point.
It is the sort of statistic that Worcester don’t like to be reminded of, and one I’m not overly keen to keep referring to, but the fact still remains.
With Guiseley and Gainsborough Trinity to come next month, reversing that trend will be imperative.
By doing so, it could make all the difference in the race for the play-offs.