Fleetwood Town 3, Altrincham 1
Fleetwood head into Friday’s play-off showdown against Kidderminster in sizzling form after Gareth Seddon inspired a fifth successive victory.
The Cod Army eased past Saturday’s lowly visitors, with two red-hot first-half strikes from Seddon and Sean Clancy seizing the initiative after Danny Hurst had saved an early penalty.
The home side ran Altrincham ragged after half-time, but failed to convert their chance and Robins substitute Dale Johnson clawed a goal back in the 90th minute.
But there was still time for Fleetwood sub George Donnelly to race up to the other end to seal the win.
Fleetwood’s day was made that much sweeter with the Harriers stumbling to a draw at relegated Eastbourne Borough – who Fleetwood smashed six goals past a week earlier – and fellow challengers York City losing at home to Tamworth.
That leaves Town with a four-point cushion in the last play-off place with three to play, though the Harriers play their game in hand at home to Darlington tomorrow.
The official opening of the completed £4.5m, 1,800 seater East Stand took centre stage in the build-up to Saturday’s game, and this impressive new facility means Fleetwood now have the infrastructure in place to compliment a Football League club.
And, with everything set-up for promotion behind the scenes, the players are playing their part to complete the dream on the pitch.
Manager Micky Mellon opted for the same XI that inflicted the 6-0 thumping to Eastbourne last week.
That victory avenged a 1-0 defeat and the Town boss was looking for a repeat serving of revenge against Borough’s fellow strugglers Altrincham, who also defeated his side by that scoreline in Cheshire in February.
Proceedings didn’t start the way Mellon had planned, though.
A quick Nicky Clee throw-in caught the home side napping in the eighth minute, and with Damien Reeves through on goal, the retreating Fleetwood captain Steve McNulty tugged down Altrincham’s star striker. Referee Stephen Martin had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and swiftly cautioned the skipper.
But Town keeper Danny Hurst outwitted the 15-goal man, who had dusted himself down to take the kick, and sprang to his left to save the weak penalty.
Altrincham’s counter-attacking was upsetting the home team and they were nearly exposed again when Wes Baynes cantered 20 yards before striking just past Hurst’s right-hand post.
But Fleetwood were sparked into life on 26 minutes, when a crisp, flowing move found Magno Vieira, and he powered past two defenders before cracking a lethal 18-yard strike inches wide.
They took the lead after 37 minutes, when the lively Sean Clancy unleashed a 30-yard swerving drive that former Fleetwood goalkeeper Craig Dootson could only flap a hand at.
The goal seemed to settle the home team and just before half-time they deservedly doubled their lead.
Beeley, the marauding right-back, was a constant threat, and after collecting the ball on the right touchline he cut inside before teeing up Seddon, who exquisitely curled in his 10th goal of the season from 20 yards.
Fleetwood had eased into the ascendency without breaking a sweat and they upped the tempo after half-time in search of a third goal.
Parker was scythed down on the right touchline before Beeley’s sharp free-kick fell into the path of Jamie McGuire, who smashed over from 25 yards.
Frontman Seddon, who returned from a troublesome ankle injury last week, looked buoyed by his stunning first-half strike, and Altrincham struggled to deal with his clever movement.
The 30-year-old dropped deep to glance a header into the path of Clancy on the left edge of the area but the winger walloped his shot over.
The fluent link-up play in Fleetwood’s attack is a pleasing sign heading in to the huge Good Friday clash and Clancy again skipped past his man before finding Seddon, who saw his goalbound strike blocked after a neat drag back.
The busy striker again came close with a dipping volley before Vieira’s pass rolled inches behind him – with a simple tap-in on the cards.
Altrincham were clinging on and centre-back Sean Gregan headed over from Barry’s free-kick before Clancy, again wreaking havoc on the left, forced Dootson into a sprawling parry with a 20-yarder.
Next it was the turn of Vieira to threaten as the Cod Army exposed gaps in the Altrincham back-line at will.
He was twice put through on goal but Robins keeper Dootson reacted sharply on both occasions to thwart the 21-goal striker.
The visitors nearly pinched a goal back with their first attack of the second half on 84 minutes, when substitute Dale Johnson’s looping header was clawed off the line by Hurst.
But Johnson grabbed his goal minutes later after latching on to James Smith’s through ball to swipe home.
Fleetwood sub George Donnelly clinically wrapped the match up in the last minute, his low drive sealing a sixth win in seven for the red-hot Cod Army.
Fleetwood Town: Hurst, Beeley, Gregan, McNulty, Brown, Parker (Mullan 58), Barry, McGuire, Clancy, Vieira, Seddon (Donnelly 90); Not Used: Davies, Harvey, Cavanagh
Altrincham: Dootson, Piergianni (Brown 61), Smith, Joseph, Young, Clee, Lawton, Densmore, Bateson (Williams 16, Johnson 45), Baynes, Reeves; Not Used: Coburn, Beesley
Referee: S Martin (Staffs); Attendance: 1,962