HARROGATE TOWN (1) 1
ALTRINCHAM (0) 0
UniBond Premier League Match,
played on Saturday, 30 August, 2003 at 3p.m.
Harrogate deservedly took the lead after 31 minutes when Smith headed home Ford's cross from the right, as the Alty defence failed to react. Town had earlier gone close a couple of times. Then, Town's Ord was stretchered off after injuring himself stretching for a cross but worse misfortune was to befall Altrincham when the tall home striker Marc Smith clattered into Acton as he came for a cross and after a long stoppage the Alty keeper had to go off with a suspected dislocated shoulder (41 mins). Left-back Chris Adams took over in goal and for the remaining 49 minutes had only one serious save to make, so well did Altrincham take the fight to Harrogate in the second half. In fact, Altrincham totally dominated the second half but Band missed a good chance, Talbot headed narrowly over, Craney just missed the target and Connor made a couple of good stops from Matthews whilst Harrogate were reduced to timewasting long before the final whistle. Alty drop to 13th.
REFEREE: Mr Mark BROWN (Hull)
Harrogate had thumped Altrincham 3-0 at Wetherby Road last season after an even heavier win at Moss Lane, 4-0. The Yorkshire side were playing their fourth successive home game and had won 2 and drawn 2 of their previous 4 matches. Alty were unbeaten but had only won once and drawn three times.
Alty had Mattie Hughes missing, suspended for an offence committed before he came to Moss Lane, whilst Mark Maddox was also suspended but also sidelined by a hairline fracture to his heel sustained at Alfreton Town. Dave Gardner was apparently unavailable for selection and Barry Shuttleworth had been ill in midweek but was fit to start on the bench. It was good to see the recuperating Sean Smith along with Maddox amongst the spectators, whilst assistant manager Dalton Steele was another of Alty's walking wounded after his ligament operation.
Harrogate's midfielder Scott Bonsall was out today with ligament damage while captain Simon Sturdy only passed a late fitness test. Ex-Leeds first-teamer Mark Ford made his Town debut but new signing Tom Woollard from Leicester City did not figure. Len Curtis was out of contention but tall striker Marc Smith was making his first start of the season after injury.
HARROGATE TOWN (Yellow & black stripes, black shorts, black socks with yellow trim): 1. Ashley CONNOR, 2. James RIORDAN, 3. Simon STURDY (capt.), 4. Michael ORD, 5. Mark FORD, 6. Ben SHERWOOD, 7. James TURLEY, 8. Mark ATKINS, 9. Marc SMITH, 10. Gary BRADSHAW, 11. Colin HUNTER. Subs: 12. Gary NAYLOR, 14. Neil ASPIN, 15. James McDAID.
ALTRINCHAM (Pale blue shirts, white shorts, blue socks): 1. Richard ACTON, 2. Gary SCOTT, 3. Chris ADAMS, 4. Stephen ROSE, 5. Gary TALBOT, 6. Steve ASPINALL, 7. Rob MATTHEWS, 8. Ian CRANEY, 9. Peter BAND, 10. Rod THORNLEY (capt.), 11. Paul ROBERTSON. Subs: 12. Dave GARDNER, 14. Steve LUNT, 15. Neil RYAN.
In bright sunshine Altrincham kicked off but an early Adams error was followed by a more serious lapse by Gary Scott on the Alty right, which allowed Sherwood to get past him and from the resulting cross Harrogate went close to scoring (2 mins). Alty's best early moment saw Craney flick the ball over Ford and advance on goal but he shot comfortably wide of Connor's left post (5 mins). At the other end, Acton was called upon to make a fine one-handed save, to his left, when Hunter volleyed a cross from the right wing goalwards (6 mins). When Craney was fouled just to the left of the box, the resulting free-kick was cleared and soon after this Band was harshly booked for "foot-up" when going for a 50/50 ball in centre-field (11 mins). From the resulting free-kick, Harrogate won a corner which was quickly followed by another one, again on their right. Taken by Hunter, this was headed over the bar by Ord. Then, after Ian Craney had surged forward from midfield he needed treatment when he was challenged (17 mins).
Harrogate soon had a good chance when Scott was caught in possession and Atkins got in a shot which Adams cleared off the line (23 mins). However, Alty replied by winning a corner on their right which the goalkeeper cleared. There was then a misunderstanding betwen Acton and his defence on the Alty left when Smith and Bradshaw conmbined and this allowed Bradshaw to nip in, only for Scott to clear the goalbound ball before it reached the line (27 mins).
Soon, Hunter flew past Scott on the Harrogate left and won a free-kick. Following this, a throw in the Harrogate right corner was awarded and the ball came back to Ford, about 35 yards out, by the right touchline. The Town debutant delivered a cross into the box where the Alty keeper and defence hesitated and Smith rose unimpeded to head home past the flat-footed Alty keeper from about 12 yards (31 mins). Given their previous near misses, it was a deserved lead.
Following a Harrogate corner from the left, Ord was confronted by a clear view of goal but as he stretched for the ball his already bandaged left knee seemed to give way and he went down in obvious pain. He was stretchered off and replaced by Aspin (34 mins). There seemed to be no stewards available and three of the four stretcher bearers were Harrogate players. As Acton shaped to take the goalkick, only eight Harrogate players were on the pitch but all raced back before Acton launched the ball forward. Alty soon won a corner when Aspin headed over his own bar but Robertson's effort was poor. Aspinall's challenge on Ford earned him a lecture but the Alty manager and many of the spectators clearly felt Ford had feigned injury and the Alty manager underlined this view as he called out, "Hey number five; that's naughty".
Soon Bradshaw got in an overhead kick which went wide (39 mins) as Alty remained on the back foot. Adams then had to clear a dangerous ball played in across the box from the Harrogate left (40 mins). Next a ball into the box from Turley saw Smith barge into Acton as he rose to collect the ball. It was immediately clear that Acton was seriously injured and it was several minutes before he was moved. Finally, he managed to get to his feet and hobble off as left-back Chris Adams donned a new goalkeeper's jersey and took over betweeen the sticks.
Acton was reported to have a suspected dislocated shoulder. Referee Brown did not book the offender for what was a clear foul (41 mins). Alty decided to play on with ten men whilst Acton's injury was assessed. A spat between the combative Sherwood and Matthews soon followed but Alty managed to prevent their stand-in keeper being tested before the interval. Just before the break, Rose's free-kick from half way almost caught out Connor as it threatened to sail over him but the keeper readjusted well to catch the ball. For the fourth time in five outings this season, Alty had failed to score in the opening 45 minutes.
|Half-Time: HARROGATE TOWN 1 ALTRINCHAM 0|
Alty brought on Shuttleworth at the interval, at left-back, to replace Acton. From the restart Alty showed their attacking intent when Connor punched clear only for Craney to lash a shot from 22 yards which was only inches wide. There was then an unsavoury incident when stand-in keeper Adams went to collect his first ball of the half only to be clattered by Sherwood who should have been booked but was not. A free-kick was given however.
Alty were now dominating play and after Robertson and Thornley had combined, Matthews's fine shot was beaten out by Connor (51 mins). Craney then played a fine ball to Thornley but Alty's captain was not having one of his better afternoons. A magnificent retrieving tackle by Rose, who with Talbot had an excellent game, saw off an attempted Harrogate attack (57 mins). Then, good work from Matthews set up Band with a clear scoring chance, from about ten yards, but although Band had time to control the ball, he knocked his effort wide of the keeper's right upright (53 mins).
Another fine ball from Robertson found Matthews on the right but only a throw resulted as Alty continued to keep Harrogate penned back. After a Matthews shot had been cleared, Band was felled but Turley escaped a booking for the offence. However, when Band was penalised soon afterwards, Robertson spoke out of turn and was cautioned (55 mins). But, when Craney was tripped soon afterwards, Sherwood finally got the booking he had deserved earlier.
When Band found Matthews the Alty man again put in an excellent shot which flashed just wide of Connor's right upright (59 mins). The Harrogate manager tried to stem the flow by putting on Naylor for Sherwood on the hour mark. Adams was then called to make his only serious save of the game when Smith got behind Rose to the right of goal but the Alty left-back-cum-goalkeeper made a superb one-handed reaction-save on the outer edge of his box as Smith attempted to poke the ball past him (62 mins).
Alty resumed their pressure but created no clear openings for the next few minutes before Smith was removed to be replaced by McDaid for Harrogate (69 mins). A Thornley shot was then blocked for a corner. From Aspinall's flag-kick Talbot rose well but his header just cleared the bar and referee Brown was deaf to claims that Connor had tipped it over (70 mins). A fine dribble by Craney ended in a shot at Connor (71 mins) as Harrogate were made to look a pale shadow of the side they had been in the first half. Indeed the home side started to spin out time at throw-ins with a quarter of an hour to go as they failed to present any threat at all to Alty's stand-in keeper.
Alty now surprisingly replaced the menacing Matthews, Steve Lunt being introduced in his place (81 mins). After Band intercepted a Harroagte pass, Robertson won a corner. This was cleared but Alty centre-back Gary Talbot now stayed up front as Alty went for an equaliser. His centre-back colleague, Stephen Rose, was now announced as Alty's man of the match with Riordan taking the prize for Town. Play continued and after Bradshaw had fouled Lunt, the Town man was booked (87 mins). As Hunter wasted more time over in the left corner, the clock ticked away and Alty failed to gather the point that their second half performance had more than deserved. If only they had played with such purpose in the first forty-five minutes, they would have taken something from this match. As it was, Harrogate's first-half performance was enough to secure them the points but it was a pity that the win was soured by Smith's foul challenge on Acton.
Unless Graham Heathcote has a surprise up his sleeve, Alty are likely to call on 34 year-old Kurt Edginton to play against Barrow on Tuesday. Kurt has played just four games in the last two seasons for Alty but he has never let us down and if the team plays as well as it did in the second half today he should have few concerns on Tuesday night.
|Full-Time: HARROGATE TOWN 1 ALTRINCHAM 0|
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