ALTRINCHAM (0) 0
STALYBRIDGE CELTIC (1) 2
UniBond Cheshire FA Senior Cup 1st Round Match,
played on Tuesday, 16 September, 2003 at 7.45p.m.
Alty went out of the Cheshire Senior Cup tonight despite an improved performance compared with Saturday's match at Wakefield. Celtic took the lead from a less than clear-cut penalty awarded to Potts who went down as he battled with Gardner and Adams for the ball in the front left of the box. Eastwood beat Timms from the spot (38 mins). Foster got the second when he headed home a Potts corner (53 mins). Alty kept going till the end with Thornley producing a fine save from Dootson to mirror the Celtic keeper's equally fine stop from Welton in the game's opening stages.
REFEREE: Mr G. Darragh
Both sides came into the game on the back of an indifferent spell of form.
Only five Altrincham players (Adams, Talbot, Gardner, Hooper and Thornley) played in the same positions tonight as they had on Saturday as manager Graham Heathcote was again forced to shuffle his squad due to injury, ineligibility and unavailability of players. Dave McCarthy and Michael Reynolds were ineligible so Ashley Timms came back into goal and Steve Lunt also re-joined the Altrincham squad. Paul Robertson left Moss Lane after Saturday's game so Rob Matthews also returned to the team, albeit starting on the bench. Mattie Hughes was once again absent so Nick Welton got his first start, alongside Rod Thornley. Right-back Gary Scott was still only fit enough to sit on the bench. With all these enforced changes, manager Graham Heathcote switched Steve Aspinall from his central midfield role to right-back, with Stephen Rose, a surprising but welcome starter after being injured on Saturday, occupying Aspinall's midfield berth alongside Ian Craney.
Stalybridge had two ex-Robins on the bench, Terry Bowker and goalkeeper Ian Senior, and although a third, Ged Kielty, was present he was ineligible to play. Former Radcliffe man, Barrie Keeling, had overcome a thigh & calf strain to start but Dave German was out with a fractured cheek-bone and eye-socket whilst Kevin Parr was sidelined by a knee ligament injury.
ALTRINCHAM (Red & white striped shirts, black shorts, black socks): 1. Ashley TIMMS, 2. Steve ASPINALL, 3. Chris ADAMS, 4. Peter BAND, 5. Gary TALBOT, 6. Stephen ROSE, 7. Dave GARDNER, 8. Ian CRANEY, 9. Nick WELTON, 10. Rod THORNLEY (capt.), 11. Danny HOOPER. Subs: 12. Stephen LUNT, 14. Robert MATTHEWS, 15. Gary SCOTT.
STALYBRIDGE CELTIC (All yellow): 1. Craig DOOTSON, 2. Darren BOWMAN, 3. Danny CALDECOTT (capt.), 4. Jerome FITZGERALD, 5. Gregg PEARCE, 6. Nathan WHARTON, 7. Barrie KEELING, 8. Steve FOSTER, 9. Kenny MAYERS, 10. Phil EASTWOOD, 11. Colin POTTS. Subs: 12. Terry BOWKER, 14. Andy HEALD, 15. Ian SENIOR (gk).
Altrincham kicked off on a warm evening in front of a crowd reduced in size by the alternative attraction of Manchester United v Panathinaikos playing in the Champions' League, just five miles up the road at Old Trafford and also being broadcast on live terrestrial TV.
After some early unproductive exchanges, Stalybridge went close when, from Keeling's pass, the strong Mayers played a fine ball to Potts and from his cross from the right Eastwood got ahead of his markers to volley narrowly over the 20/20 End crossbar from 8 yards (6 mins). But then Alty went even closer when an accurate cross from the right by Gardner was met well by the head of Welton but Dootson produced a magnificent save, from close range, which gave Alty a corner on their left (7 mins). It was Celtic who went close again after 11 minutes when Potts got past Band and from the resulting cross Eastwood volleyed just wide. Aspinall then won a strong 50/50 challenge with Caldecott just inside the Celtic half from which the Celtic captain stayed down injured. After lengthy treatment from Celtic physio, Dave Pover, Caldecott got to his feet but after a step or two went down again and had to be stretchered off. He was replaced by Andy Heald, Celtic's new signing from Leigh RMI (18 mins). After the three close chances in the early stages, the game now went through a scrappy few minutes in which the main features were the determined tackling of Stephen Rose, the constant danger of Celtic's Potts and the strength on the ball of Kenny Mayers.
However, Chris Adams soon won his side a corner but this was cleared after Thornley had been penalised. Play was now fairly even as Talbot mopped up the next Stalybridge attack. Celtic now put together some sustained passing movements with one move of a dozen or more interchanges resulting in Wharton shooting wide (28 mins). After Chris Adams had won the ball well from Bowman, Craney then surged forward but when Welton headed down Thornley's resulting cross, Craney lifted his shot well over the bar to conclude Alty's best move of the game so far (31 mins). Stalybridge continued to pass the ball well and Potts did have the ball in the net but only after he had fouled Timms to earn a lecture from Mr Darragh (34 mins). There was then an unsavoury incident as Rose tackled Foster, a recent signing from Hyde, and the Celtic man retaliated against the prostrate Alty midfielder. Both were spoken to but Alty were given the free-kick (36 mins). A ball on the left now eluded Band, so Gardner and Adams moved across to cut off Potts on the left front edge of the Alty box. A nod back to Timms failed to reach him and as Gardner and Adams attempted to complete the job, Potts went down, as the ball reached the Alty keeper's safe hands. Referee Darragh awarded a spot kick with less than total conviction and Gardner's protests earned him a caution before Eastwood could take the penalty, which he drove home as Timms went to his right and the ball went to his left (38 mins).
Soon afterwards a low cross from Potts on the right was almost turned into the net by an incoming player as Hooper lay prostrate on the edge of the other penalty area, having hurt his back as he failed to connect a minute or so earlier with a ball which came to him following a Craney cross from the left. After lengthy treatment from Gary Thompson, Hooper resumed. Rose's fine tackle broke up another Stalybridge attack (41 mins) before Dootson had to rush right over to the right touchline, 20 yards out, to clear an Alty attack. Craney then showed great control to bring down the ball before half-volleying a shot which went close to the target (43 mins). A late tackle by Foster on Craney, not his first foul of the evening, earned him a booking (45 mins). Half-time then arrived with Celtic just about deserving their lead but the manner in which it had arrived had not been satisfactory.
|Half-Time: ALTRINCHAM 0 STALYBRIDGE CELTIC 1|
Stalybridge won the first corner of the second half which Timms punched clear. However, Craney then hooked an effort wide at the other end after good work from Rose (47 mins). Following a handball by Pearce, Gardner's free-kick found Welton but the ball was cleared. Nevertheless, Gardner was soon probing again up the right flank but then Potts got behind Adams and his low cross from the right just evaded the incoming Eastwood (50 mins). Soon Potts got in a fine shot from the right which Timms did well to parry out but the incoming Mayers failed to hit the target from the rebound to him, slightly left of goal (52 mins). The respite for Alty was short for Stalybridge soon won a corner off Rose when Eastwood and Heald attacked up the left. Potts's corner found Foster who headed, unchallenged, into the net from a central position (53 mins).
Referee Darragh gave some strange decisions and his award of a goalkick after Craney's effort had clearly been deflected out for a corner was one of them (57 mins). Nevertheless, Thornley and Welton soon combined well for the Alty captain to force a good save from Dootson, low down (58 mins). After a rare error by Talbot, Potts brought an even better save from Timms, who used his legs to beat out the Celtic man's shot from the right (63 mins). From Alty's next attack, Thornley was clearly held in the box but play continued and only a corner resulted. Soon afterwards a ball was cleared out to Rose whose 25 yarder cleared the bar (64 mins). End-to-end play continued with Dootson punching clear from Aspinall, before Eastwood was caught offside and then Band cleared up another attack. Hooper then got the ball to Craney who lashed an effort just over the bar (67 mins). Matthews now came on for Rose who limped off.
Thornley was making a nuisance of himself to the Celtic defence and he almost grabbed a goal when Matthews got the ball to Welton whose dink saw a stretching Thornley force Dootson to the best save of the night, to his left, to concede a corner. After this had been cleared, Lunt replaced Welton up front (71 mins). Alty then had to scramble clear another Potts/Eastwood incursion. There was still plenty of effort from both sides before Thornley went down, having apparently been caught by Wharton's arm off the ball. As with Hooper's injury in the first half, Mr Darragh was slow to halt play but after lengthy treatment Thornley resumed. Before play restarted Bowker replaced Potts (77 mins). Aspinall was then grateful for an offside decision when he slipped over and Eastwood bore down on goal (79 mins). Next Lunt beat Bowker and the ball went to Gardner who shot narrowly wide from the right (79 mins). Alty appeals for a penalty went unheeded when Gardner went down under Pearce's challenge but a corner did result for Altrincham. This was cleared out to Hooper whose ball back into the box saw Talbot head just over the top. Once again an apparently clear Alty corner was seen as a Celtic goalkick by the referee as Altrincham continued to press for a goal. Talbot and Aspinall both had efforts at goal before Alty won another corner three minutes from the end. This was cleared but when Gardner pumped the ball back in, Lunt rose to head the ball over the bar.
After Craney and the already booked Foster grappled with each other, an Alty free-kick was awarded but soon after Foster's half-hit shot had run easily to Timms, the final whistle sounded. Altrincham's efforts had deserved at least a goal but for the second game in succession they remained score-less. This was a rather better Altrincham performance than at Wakefield on Saturday but Stalybridge nevertheless deserved their win. Alty have no game this Saturday but travel to Southport on Tuesday looking to get their season back on the rails. Though they now lie 20th, just three points separate them from 12th place in the League.
|Full-Time: ALTRINCHAM 0 STALYBRIDGE CELTIC 2|