Phil Parkinson was full of admiration for his players’ ability to focus on the job in hand after they came within a couple of minutes of making it 11 games unbeaten at promotion-chasing Chesterfield on Tuesday night.

Despite the distraction of losing Ryan Colclough, who made his Chesterfield debut as a second-half substitute against the Robins, and more transfer speculation creating further uncertainty, Parkinson’s side turned in one of their most disciplined performances of the season as they matched the Spireites for long spells.

Former Stockport County centre-half Ashley Palmer’s 88th-minute header finally proved their undoing, and put an end to an outstanding 10-match undefeated run, but there was plenty to encourage Parkinson, who handed a full debut at right-back to Harrogate Town defender Miles Welch-Hayes after signing him on loan for the rest of the season.

“It looked like it was always going to take a set-piece to settle it, and so it proved,” said the Alty boss, who has also landed Chesterfield winger Michael Gyasi on loan until the end of the season but has seen Stockport recall on-loan striker Connor Jennings ahead of schedule.

“They may have dominated possession and territory, but we have gone toe-to-toe with them and defended like our lives depended on it, and we’ve hit them on the counter. In fact, I felt we had the better chances.

“There were a lot of positives to take, coming here and showing that endeavour against one of the top teams, especially when you consider what we have lost and could potentially lose.

“Those factors are there. A lot of off-field things have happened behind the scenes over the last couple of weeks, but, despite all that, the lads acquitted themselves outstandingly well.

“The back six, if you include the two central midfielders, were fantastic, and I can’t wait to see Isaac Marriott’s statistics for the amount of ground he covered.

“You’ve got to be almost perfect to take something from these places, and unfortunately we weren’t quite that.”