ST HELENS TOWN (0) 0
ALTRINCHAM (2) 2
Pre-Season Friendly Match,
played on Saturday, 26 July, 2003 at 3p.m.
REFEREE: Mr A. Scregg.
Alty fans arriving for their club's fifth pre-season game at the cavernous Knowsley Road ground (capacity 15,100), which St Helens Town share with their town's more famous rugby-league neighbours, were surprised to see their side practising on a patch of grass outside the turnstiles. As in many a playground game, two pieces of clothing served as Richard Acton's makeshift goal as he fielded practice shots. The players only made their first appearance on the well-manicured pitch itself as they ran out for the kick-off at 2.55pm.
The St Helens side was a very young one, as the club seeks to come to terms with its recent financially-induced upheavals which saw former Alty stalwart John Davison leave the manager's post earlier this month.
Alty started with eleven who can expect to be in the first-team squad this season, but their four subs included two of last season's youth team, in the shape of Paul Glynn and Steve Lunt. There was an unfamiliar front pairing for Altrincham of Andy Tunnicliffe and Peter Band, brought about by the absences of Mattie Hughes and Rod Thornley. With the return of Gary Talbot, Stephen Rose was played in midfield. It was good to see Danny Murphy in the stand, with his new baby, but the Alty midfielder is suffering a ruptured cruciate ligament and may need a further operation before he takes to the field again. All Alty supporters will wish him a speedy recovery.
Jeff Voller, the St Helens secretary has kindly provided his team's names, for which I am grateful
ST HELENS TOWN (Red & white striped shirts, red shorts & socks): 1. Ian ROBERTSON, 2. Danny LEYLAND, 3. Lee DAMES, 4. Lee NOCTON, 5. Gary KENNY, 6. Danny ROACH, 7. Danny MELLING, 8. Aaron TURNER, 9. Tony FILSON, 10. Darren BYERS, 11. Lee SMITH. Subs: Alan PRICE (gk), Rick ARNOLD, Andy McEVOY, Michael DUFFY, Martin WELSH, Danny HUGHES, Steve MURPHY, Ian FAIRBROTHER.
ALTRINCHAM (Pale blue shirts, white shorts, black socks): 1. Richard ACTON, 2. Jason GALLAGHER, 3. Chris ADAMS, 4. Mark MADDOX (capt.), 5. Gary TALBOT, 6. Neil RYAN, 7. Rob MATTHEWS, 8. Stephen ROSE, 9. Peter BAND, 10. Andy TUNNICLIFFE, 11. Paul ROBERTSON. Subs: 12. Steve LUNT, 14. Paul GLYNN, 15. Barry SHUTTLEWORTH, 16. Ian CRANEY.
Surprisingly, it was Stephen Rose who got in Alty's first shot of the game and in the early stages the Alty no.8 got forward far more than his role usually allows. Indeed, Alty spent virtually all of the opening minutes in the St Helens half but it was the home side who came the nearest to scoring when their number ten was given the benefit of the doubt and deemed on-side as he latched onto a through ball. However, from 20 yards his chip went over the bar (8 mins). Alty responded when Ryan's free-kick was met well by Talbot's head but Rose, once more in advanced position, could only direct the ball narrowly over the goal (10 mins). Play then stopped for the referee to lecture Maddox and Filson after the two had stood head to head following a running spat (12 mins). For the third time, Rose got in a shot, following Ryan's, but the Alty midfielder shot wide from 20 yards (13 mins). Ryan was having a good start to the game, whilst Adams and Gallagher were getting forward well on the flanks. Soon, Tunnicliffe then got in a shot, just over the bar, before St Helens won the game's first corner after a long punt upfield had skimmed off Maddox's head some thirty yards from goal. This corner was cleared and soon Alty had their first corner, won off Kenny, on their right (21 mins). Robertson's corner was almost turned in by Matthews after a flick on by Rose.
St Helens fell into the offside trap several times in the first half but Alty were generally on top. A foul on Band, some 35 yards to the right, then gave Adams a chance to curl a free-kick onto Talbot's head as the centre-back timed his run into the right-hand side of the box perfectly. His header across the box fell for the incoming Maddox at the back post who drove the ball into the net from close range to round off a well-rehearsed set-piece (25 mins).
Mark Maddox nets his penalty.
After Matthews had dispossessed Leyland, the St Helens full-back felt he had been fouled and responded by scything down the Alty man (27 mins). Soon, a pass from Rose gave Matthews an opening but he shot too high. St Helens then put together a good move which ended with Byers feeding Filson whose low shot went narrowly wide (29 mins). At the other end, a Ryan feed allowed Rose yet another shot, which was blocked. Gallagher then made a couple of good tackles to see off St Helens. Alty were now putting together some sustained passing moves but it was St Helens who won the next corner, which led to three shots in quick succession which were all blocked well by Alty defenders (40 mins). As half-time approached, Band fed Ryan whose fine ball to Matthews led to the ball coming back to Ryan. The ball then rebounded back and as Matthews and Dawes both closed in on it simultaneously, in the right hand side of the box, the referee judged the St Helens' defender's challenge to have been a foul and pointed, somewhat surprisingly, to the penalty spot. After Matthews had received treatment from Gary Thompson, in the absence of Thornley and Shuttleworth, it was captain Mark Maddox who took the responsibility of the spot-kick. He drove the ball to the keeper's right and though Robertson got a hand to the ball, it went firmly into the net to give Alty a two-nil lead and to put the Alty centre-back on the verge of a hat-trick.
|Half-Time: ST HELENS TOWN 0 ALTRINCHAM 2|
The second half started with Richard Acton seeing some rare action as he fumbled the ball but he recovered well (46 mins). Soon, an error by Kenny allowed Matthews a shot, which he again put over the bar (49 mins). The half was then interrupted by a succession of substitutions. First Shuttleworth replaced Robertson (52 mins), which led to Adams moving forward to midfield and Ryan and Gallagher also swapped roles on the right. Lunt then replaced Tunnicliffe up front (54 mins) and a minute later St Helens's numbers 14 and 17 replaced Filson and Byers (55 mins). Yet another change came when the home side's no.12 came on (57 mins). Alty were looking comfortable with their 2-0 lead and soon St Helens's second no.14 took to the pitch followed by Paul Glynn's replacement of Jason Gallagher on the right (61 mins). Despite Alty's domination, few goal chances were arising but it was the home side who created a good chance after 68 minutes when an error by Talbot saw the ball reach the home side's impressive no.7, Danny Melling. In a one-on-one with Richard Acton in the outer penalty area, the Alty keeper stood up well and blocked the St Helens player's effort.
Yet another change saw Ian Craney, 21 years old last week, replace Matthews, who had again looked a more than useful addition to the Alty squad (70 mins). Next Adams advanced on the left but his cross narrowly evaded Peter Band before Shuttleworth's shot from 22 yards cleared the bar. Graham Heathcote then swapped Adams and Shuttleworth positionally, with Adams reverting to left-back. Alty's best chance of the half came when Craney's effort from 12 yards crashed against the underside of the bar but rebounded to safety (73 mins).
St Helens replaced Turner by their no.15 (74 mins) and they soon won a corner from which Roach shot wide. Then Tunnicliffe reappeared on the pitch, replacing Adams, who immediately had an ice-pack applied to the small of his back (76 mins). St Helens then brought on a second number 15 (79 mins) as the broken rhythm of the second half continued. The game drifted on before a St Helens no.16 replaced the lively Melling, who had been their most menacing player (85 mins). Little much of note occurred in the closing minutes but Alty went home satisfied with another win to add to the three victories and a draw secured so far in pre-season. The game had seen some fluent passing from Altrincham but after building their first-half lead, the second half was something of an anti-climax, which was largely brought about by the large-scale changes of personnel after the interval. St Helens never gave up and though having less of the possession had one or two good chances to score.
|Full-Time: ST HELENS TOWN 0 ALTRINCHAM 2|