ALTRINCHAM will look to move further clear of trouble at the foot of the Vanarama National League when travelling to relegation rivals FC Halifax Town this Easter weekend (KO 12:45 GMT).
The Robins will hope to record back-to-back wins for the first time since November in front of the BT Sport cameras in Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off.
Alty climbed out of the bottom four after a 4-0 win over Aldershot last time out – their first victory under Neil Tolson, who is taking charge until the end of the season following the sacking of Lee Sinnott earlier this month.
But Halifax are buoyed themselves having secured a first Wembley trip in their 105-year history last weekend by completing a 6-4 aggregate win over seventh-tier Nantwich Town in the FA Trophy semi-finals.
Jordan Burrows scored twice in the 2-2 draw at the Shay which will see the west Yorkshire outfit appear at the national stadium on May 22.
The forward, who is Halifax’s top scorer with 17 goals this season, also bagged a brace against Alty earlier in the season as a 3-1 win at Moss Lane in October earned then boss Darren Kelly his first win in charge.
That summed up the Shaymen’s eventful and topsy-turvy campaign, which began with long-serving boss Neil Aspin at the helm but a run of one win in their first 10 games ended his six-year stay.
After Gareth McClelland briefly took charge, the club turned to former Oldham boss Kelly but he lasted six weeks before Jim Harvey was handed the reins in December following an initial caretaker spell.
The former Morecambe and Forest Green boss has helped to steady the ship but, after the highs of last weekend, the 57-year-old admitted he would happily swap Wembley for National League survival.
He told the club’s website: “If you could tell me that I was safe, that is my goal. I have to keep the club up. Now that we have achieved Wembley, that’s for everyone to enjoy but we need to focus on the league results.”
Staying up is also the aim for Alty – who will gain confidence from thrashing mid-table Aldershot, with Josh Ginnelly scoring a goal of the season contender when running 65 yards to slot home for a sublime solo effort.
The on-loan Burnley midfielder also grabbed an assist in a man-of-the-match display and will hope to have a similar impact in the televised match at the Shay.
It had been a tough start to Tolson’s tenure with successive 3-2 defeats against Gateshead and Barrow, but 10 goals in three games – since the goalless draw with Macclesfield in Sinnott’s final game – is a better return from one of the division’s lowest-scoring sides.
Michael Rankine, Alty’s leading marksman with 10 goals, will be hoping to get back in the goalscoring groove having gone four matches without finding the net.
The Robins have struggled on the road this term and have not won away from their Cheshire home in the league since a 3-1 success at Bromley – also shown live on TV – in mid-November.
Their only other victory since on their travels was at Leamington in the FA Trophy in January but away matches have been few and far between lately with only two in the last 10 games.
Altrincham – in their second season in the fifth tier of English football – should fancy their chances as they will be up against the worst defence in the league, with Halifax conceding 69 goals in their 36 games.
However, the Shaymen – who were in administration as recently as 2008 – have the best attack among the bottom eight teams with 48 goals but have only scored once in their last four league outings.
Halifax are preparing for a first home league match since February 20 – a shock 4-2 win over future FA Trophy final opponents Grimsby in front of their biggest home crowd of the campaign.
They are seeking only a second league win in six matches which could lift them out of the relegation zone and help extend their three-year stay in non-league’s top tier.
With two places and one point separating the two strugglers, a tight game is expected but a positive result will be crucial for both ahead of Easter Monday fixtures against mid-table sides – when Alty host Southport and Halifax visit Barrow.
A minute’s silence will be observed before kick-off as a mark of respect for those affected by the Brussels terror attacks this week.
FC Halifax Town: Johnson (GK), Porter (GK), Bolton, Bencherif, Brown, Roberts, McManus, Wroe (c), James, J MacDonald, Hibbs, Walker, S McDonald, Burrow, Fairhurst.
Altrincham: Deasy (GK), Leather, Havern, Griffin, Holness, Moult (c), Heathcote, Sinnott, Phillips, Richman, Ginnelly, Bowerman, O’Keefe, Crowther, Lawrie, Reeves, Rankine.
Referee: Michael Salisbury (Lancashire)
You can see coverage of the game live on BT Sport 1 from 12:30 BST on Saturday.