KNUTSFORD were unlucky to be faced with an Altrincham side strengthened by five first-team players.

The Robins did not have a National League North fixture and manager Phil Parkinson used the opportunity to keep some of his squad members sharp.

However Reds, victors in the return in September, can take heart from how they competed.

A side managed by Jordan Gunter and Jamie Mottershead had to adjust to fitter opponents who applied pressure relentlessly when the visitors had possession.

It forced them often to give it up.

Goalkeeper Callum Spencer produced his best to keep out a shot from Dontai Gabidon that was curling towards the bottom corner.

He could not stop Ben Elliott converting from close-range on 18 minutes though.

Alty dominated in midfield, where senior players Sean Williams and Max Harrop took charge, and Spencer was tested by the latter.

Knutsford’s number one then smothered at Elliott’s feet.

The away side’s defence, marshalled by Steve Jenyons, worked hard to deny their rivals space.

Harrop sent a free-kick narrowly off target, a teaser perhaps for his next attempt shortly after the interval from 25-yards that curled over the wall and into the top corner.

Knutsford, to their credit, battled on.

Spencer was tested again before George Riley sprayed a pass to Milan Thompson who cut inside and prompted Alty custodian Andrew Jones to save.

Reds continued to be aggressive and cursed their luck when Riley’s powerful attempt from distance clattered an upright.

And they did so again when Aaron Clayton found substitute Matthew Schofield and his angled effort, which lacked force, also hit a post.

A trademark mazy dribble by full-back Ben Woods took him past four defenders before he shot wide as they visitors went unrewarded for their best spell of the contest.

Alty, first in the Premier Division table and favourites to take the title from Knutsford, continued to pose a threat and Spencer was equal to an effort from Kallum Mantack.

He had to be alert to keep out an effort from Williams, named last season in the Northern Premier League top-flight’s team of the season after impressing for Warrington Town.

Thompson’s cross almost teed up Riley for a close-range volley before Mantack blazed high after skipping away from Woods and Rob Spilsbury.

Schofield’s finish was weak when he had another glimpse of goal before Spencer concluded a busy afternoon with a save to deny Mantack.

Reds visit Crewe on Saturday, kick-off 2pm.

Knutsford | Spencer (GK), Wilbraham, Woods, Jenyons (Jones 74), Spilsbury, Okome, Riley, Clayton, Jackson (Croft 64), Thompson, West (Schofield 55) Sub not used Harrison