Altrincham’s eagerly-awaited trip to league leaders Chesterfield ended in narrow defeat on Tuesday night, but Phil Parkinson was full of praise for an “awe-inspiring” performance that underlined the Robins’ credentials as genuine play-off contenders.

Smarting from an agonising FA Trophy defeat on penalties at Kidderminster on Saturday, after Chris Conn-Clarke had a stoppage-time spot-kick saved, Alty rounded off an exceptional first-half performance at the SMH Group Stadium with a brilliant team goal to go in all-square at 1-1.

They could not build on Conn-Clarke’s equaliser and were ultimately undone by an 83rd-minute winner from former Robins forward James Berry, but Parkinson was hugely encouraged by the way Alty took the game to a side who are now 12 points clear of second-placed Bromley with a match in hand.

“That’s the best we have played against Chesterfield, which shows the progress we are making and how much we have improved,” said the Alty manager.

“The performance was awe-inspiring for me, and I’m devastated we weren’t able to see it through at 1-1, because a draw was the bare minimum we deserved.

“The whole weekend has been a nearly process, because we so nearly got it right at Kidderminster and it was the same here tonight.

“But the lads played to a really top standard, went toe-to-toe with them and equalised with a goal that was really well created and brilliantly finished.

“We got into some fantastic areas, and if we had been a bit more clinical and taken advantage of some of our excellent counter-attacking play, particularly in the first half, then the game would have swung our way.

“Chesterfield have got away with one there, but I’m ever so proud of the lads - the performance level was outstanding.”

Fit-again left-back Eddy Jones particularly took the eye, with Parkinson, whose side are away to Southend United on Saturday, adding: “That’s the best I’ve seen from Eddy in an Alty shirt - I felt he really came of age this evening.”