VAUXHALL MOTORS (1) 1
ALTRINCHAM (0) 1
UniBond Premier League Match,
played on Tuesday, 9 September, 2003 at 7.45p.m.
After a Terry Fearns goal, which had an off-side query about it, had put Vauxhall ahead (15 mins) Altrincham gained their 6th draw in 8 starts with a superb 25 yard shot from Ian Craney ten minutes from the end. Altrincham had the better of the second start after a less effective first half performance and a draw was a fair outcome. The Robins fielded three debutants- goalkeeper Ashley Timms, midfielder Danny Hooper and substitute striker Nick Welton, all of whom acquitted themselves well.
REFEREE: Mr C. Collins
Alty had yet to take a league point off Vauxhall having lost to the Ellesmere Port side 1-2 (A) and 0-1 (H) in 2001/02, and 0-4 (A) and 0-2 (H) last season. Curiously all four defeats came in a sequence of 15 league fixtures covering the end of the 2001/02 campaign and the start of the following season.
Alty fielded three debutants tonight, including their fourth keeper of the season, 17 year-old debutant Ashley Timms, who was signed to cover for the injured goalkeeping trio of Richard Acton, Kurt Edginton and Dave McCarthy. Chris Adams, who had kept a clean sheet for 50 minutes at Harrogate started in his more customary defensive left-back position, with Stephen Rose partnering Gary Talbot in the centre. There was a recall for Gary Scott at right-back; Gary has been suffering with tight hamstrings. Danny Hooper, signed from Stalybridge, started in midfield but Nick Welton, only signed today from Mossley and a former Vauxhall player, began on the bench.
Barry Shuttleworth was not fit to play, whilst Paul Robertson had recovered from a virus to sit on the bench. However, Rod Thornley was away on England masseur duty.
Despite losing star players Haddrell and Brazier to Macclesfield and Northwich respectively, Vauxhall had started the season well and had already scored six goals in two different matches. Indeed, Vauxhall's Terry Fearns had scored 5 goals on Saturday at Blyth and has hit 82 goals in a little more than two seasons for the Motormen. John Norman, the former Morecambe and Burscough front man was in the Motormen's midfield tonight whilst Lee Kissock, once at Altrincham, was on the Vauxhall bench.
VAUXHALL MOTORS (White shirts, with navy trim, navy shorts, white socks): 1. Andy RALPH, 2. Neil RIGBY, 3. Wayne McDERMOTT, 4. John NORMAN, 5. Chris WHELAN, 6. Craig ROBINSON, 7. Carl NESBITT, 8. Kevin LYNCH (capt.), 9. Terry FEARNS, 10. Nicky YOUNG, 11. Peter CUMISKEY. subs: 12. Anton LALLY, 14. Robbie LAWTON, 15. Lee KISSOCK
ALTRINCHAM (Sky blue shirts, white shorts, blue socks): 1. Ashley TIMMS, 2. Gary SCOTT, 3. Chris ADAMS, 4. Stephen ROSE, 5. Gary TALBOT, 6. Steve ASPINALL, 7. Dave GARDNER, 8. Ian CRANEY (capt.), 9. Mattie HUGHES, 10. Peter BAND, 11. Danny HOOPER. Subs: 12. Paul ROBERTSON, 14. Rob MATTHEWS, 15. Nick WELTON.
Altrincham started with Mattie Hughes and Dave Gardner paired up front and enjoyed a promising opening to the game. The Robins won the game's first corner, through Craney, from a Band pass. Gary Talbot rose well to head Aspinall's corner just over the bar (4 mins). But Vauxhall soon won a corner for themselves through Fearns. Timms palmed this away to his left but Alty then went close again when Craney got almost to the by-line before his shot from the left was well saved by Ralph to concede a corner on the left. Altrincham continued to press and a foul on Gardner yielded a free-kick but this was wasted. Vauxhall were proving dangerous with their fast forward breaks. However, Talbot then headed well clear from a free-kick conceded by Gardner. But Alty's good early work was undone when a ball forward from the centre-right by Norman found Fearns in a possibly offside position in the centre of the pitch just outside the box. The flag stayed down and Fearns advanced, faced only by Timms, before he beat the Alty keeper with his shot to put Vauxhall ahead (15 mins).
Stephen Rose who suffered a bloody nose on Saturday was soon on the end of another facial blow when his first touch for a back pass was underhit and he had a second touch of the ball, Timms in the interim had advanced and blasted his clearance straight into his team-mates' face. After treatment, Rose continued (17 mins). Alty then took advantage of one of many strong left-foot clearances by the 17 year-old Timms. Band knocked on the clearance to Gardner and his cross from the right found the head of Hughes but his effort went wide (18 mins).
Vauxhall now enjoyed a period of pressure with Cumiskey proving a handful with his strength and powerful crosses from the wing. When Scott lost the ball, Nesbitt went on to beat another Alty man but sent a weak shot at Timms (25 mins). Rose then cleared a Motors' attack before a fine ball from Aspinall just reached Ralph narrowly ahead of Hughes's arrival (28 mins). Scott, Adams, Rose and Talbot continued to keep Vauxhall at bay whilst Peter Band was, as ever, popping up all over the pitch. Adams was then the victim of a late challenge from Lynch, who got no more than a lecture (29 mins). An Alty freekick from Adams then saw Ralph punch clear from Talbot which led to another foul by the combative Lynch, on Craney. He again escaped a booking.
Next, Cumiskey's feed to Rigby led to a low shot which Timms held comfortably, low down (33 mins). Fearns was then caught offside from Cumiskey's pass as Alty remained on the back foot. When Fearns blocked an Alty free-kick, Mr Collins again chose to issue no caution. The referee did however, tell off the Vauxhall bench for the second time for having more than two people standing in their technical area. After Scott had tracked back well to clear, Band, Gardner and Hooper combined and Hughes almost got onto the end of Hooper's cross (34 mins). When Whelan pushed over Gardner another free-kick resulted, taken by Adams from the right touchline but this was cleared. Next Craney put in a fine cross which Band headed wide (37 mins). Rose was forced to head out for a corner on the right and then a cross saw Fearns's header deflected out for another Vauxhall flag-kick. Talbot cleared this but Alty were on the back foot. Nesbitt's foul on Gardner earned Alty some relief just before the board showing two minutes of added time was displayed. The half ended just after Hughes had accidentally kicked Robinson's head as they went for the ball (45 mins).
For the seventh time in eight outings Alty had failed to find the net in the first half and an improvement was going to be necessary if Vauxhall were not to add to their lead in the second half.
|Half-Time: VAUXHALL MOTORS 1 ALTRINCHAM 0|
Before the kick-off the referee had a word with Graham Heathcote for reasons which were unclear but when play resumed, Vauxhall soon won a corner. But Alty themselves went very close just afterwards when Craney surged forward and found Hughes on the left. His firm shot from a wide angle was well saved by Ralph, diving to his left (47 mins). This presaged some good Altrincham pressure and Hughes soon won a corner on the left which Aspinall hit too long. Then a fine ball from Aspinall sent Hughes running at goal to the right of the box where Ralph committed a professional foul to bring him down. Mr Collins presumably judged Hughes to be heading away from goal towards the corner, so only showed the keeper a yellow card (51 mins). Altrincham continued to enjoy the upper hand in the second half with the midfield now more actively supporting the front runners than had been the case in the first half. Their cause was aided by vocal support from the Altrincham supporters who seemed to outnumber the home support in what was Vauxhall's largest crowd of the season to date.
Rose and Aspinall then fed Hughes on the left but the latter's shot from a sharp angle landed on the roof of the net (57 mins). Alty's back four were stifling all attempts by Vauxhall to get through to Timms, not that the young keeper's confident display betrayed any need to protect him excessively. However, Rose did soon have to make a fine toe-end interception to knock on a ball which had been played over the Alty back four, to Timms as Fearns threatened (65 mins).
Alty had now moved Band up front with Hughes whilst Gardner moved to right midfield, in which unaccustomed position Band had started the game. Altrincham almost levelled when Craney got in a good shot which Ralph parried to Hughes who, from a sharp angle to the right of goal, got in another goal-bound shot which was deflected out for a corner on the right (69 mins). After Lynch had caught Adams, the Alty full-back responded and he was booked whilst Lynch escaped scot-free (70 mins).
Though they were now playing well, Alty made a double switch with Nick Welton replacing Hughes up front and Robertson taking over from Hooper (73 mins). Almost immediately Welton fed Robertson whose fine cross from the left just evaded Band and Gardner at the back post (74 mins). But Vauxhall were still a danger on the counter-attack and when Fearns advanced on goal Alty were thankful that he shot narrowly wide of Timms's right post (75 mins). Yet another foul by Lynch failed to earn him the booking which he merited but again Vauxhall nearly scored soon afterwards. Rose was caught in possession near halfway and Fearns charged towards goal up the middle. However, Rose tracked back and executed a superb tackle which knocked the ball onto Timms (77 mins)
Vauxhall now brought on Lawton for their captain, Lynch (77 mins). A foul on Band now gave Gardner a chance with a 25 yard free-kick but he curled this well over the bar. But then Welton, who had looked sharp, won possession on the left. The ball came inside to Craney, in a central position, and he advanced to drive home a superb left-footed goal from 25 yards to level the scores (80 mins). The celebrations included not only a huddle of embracing players near the Alty bench but the sight of Alty chairman Geoff Goodwin climbing on the dugout to express his delight.
Vauxhall replied by winning a corner off a rebound from Scott but this was cleared and then Rob Matthews replaced Gardner, who left the field to a generous round of applause (83 mins). Welton soon did well again but his cross was cleared. A fine tackle from Aspinall set up another Alty attack whilst a foul on Matthews gave the visitors a free-kick to keep up their pressure. The tannoy announced Nesbitt as Vauxhall's Man of the Match and this inspired a final five minutes or so of Vauxhall pressure, which included a 20 yarder from Cumiskey which Timms dealt with well. The final threat came when Cumiskey's fine cross from the left landed on Fearns's head but the prolific striker this time missed the target, heading over the bar (87 mins). After Matthews had gone down off the ball, the referee belatedly stopped play but chose to book the protesting Matthews rather than his alleged assailant.
All the new Altrincham players acquitted themselves well. Timms had a confidence which belied his young age whilst Hooper showed some good touches and industry in midfield. The arrival of Welton gave Alty some height up front and he, too, showed determination in 50-50 situations on several occasions. As at Harrogate, Alty had been under par in the first half but had been the better second-half side by a clear margin. The combination up front of Gardner and Hughes, neither of whom is strong in the air, meant that they were unable to hold the ball up and Alty forward movements soon ended in another Vauxhall attack during the first half. But when the formation was changed in the second period the performance improved. Nevertheless a draw was fair result as Vauxhall spurned a couple of clear chances in the second half.
This was Altrincham's first league point taken form Vauxhall, after four previous attempts but it was not enough to stop them dropping a place to 15th.
|Full-Time: VAUXHALL MOTORS 1 ALTRINCHAM 1|