Phil Parkinson has described his Altrincham squad’s lockdown fitness levels as "inspiring" but issued a stark message about the play-offs by warning: "There are no second chances".

Alty’s players were left to their own devices after being furloughed by the club, but they returned to training in a way that had Parkinson beaming with pride.

Initial non-contact training gradually gave way to flat-out sessions, and as he considered his line-up for this Sunday’s National League North play-off eliminator against derby rivals Chester at The J.Davidson Stadium, the Alty manager said: "It’s all been really positive. It’s inspiring to see the levels they are already managing to hit.

"These are strange times, and we don’t know about next season, when it might start or what it will be like. All we can do is look at the short-term goals, which are tackling these play-offs and hopefully gaining promotion.

"We are in a shoot-out, where it’s lose and you’re out. There are no second chances. We need to be as ready as we can be, but if preparation has anything to do with it, we will go into it full of confidence."

Kick-off for Sunday’s behind-closed-doors game has been brought forward from 3pm to 1.30pm for live streaming, while it will go straight to penalties if the scores are level after 90 minutes, following the league’s decision to dispense with extra-time.

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"The lads haven’t had much game time, so it is probably common sense to guard against the risk of injuries being picked up in extra time,’ said Parkinson.

"If we go out on penalties, we’ll probably be wishing there was extra-time, but it’s sensible and I hope we benefit from it.

"Games at our level don’t come much bigger than Altrincham v Chester. There is history to the fixture, both sets of players know each other inside out and both management teams know everything about each other, so it’s a great game to go into. It should be a fantastic occasion, and everyone is looking forward to it. We are relishing the opportunity and can’t wait to get back into some kind of competitive action again."