GATESHEAD (1) 1
ALTRINCHAM (0) 2
FA Trophy 1st Round Match,
played on Saturday, 1 November, 2003 at 3p.m.
After a very poor first-half performance, Altrincham stunned the spectators at the International Stadium with two goals in the last two minutes of normal time in the second half from substitute Nick Welton. Having survived a strong penalty appeal after 2 minutes and a shot which cannoned off the crossbar, Alty fell behind after 31 minutes when Chilton seized on Chris Adams's mis-header to rifle the ball into the bottom corner. The double substitution of Lunt and Welton for Gardner and Shuttleworth (67 mins) livened up the Robins but all hope seemed to have gone until Welton's well-hit 25 yarder from the right of goal took a deflection past Burke in the home goal. Then in the last minute, before 5 minutes of added time, Lunt did well on the left and, from his cross, Welton nipped ahead of the defence to score his second and secure an Alty win, to the amazement of everyone
REFEREE: Mr C A Brumwell (Carlisle)
Altrincham were looking for their fourth successive win and clean sheet, whilst Gateshead hoped to bounce back after a late reverse at Workington in the UniBond Cup in midweek. Gateshead were relegated from our division last season but had made a good start to this season, despite being docked four league points for twice fielding ineligible players.
The pitch was in far better condition than on our visit last season though recent rain made it a little soft. For those who have not visited the International Stadium, the pitch is separated from the main stand by the long jump pit and the lanes of the running track and none of the ground is open to spectators other than a portion of the main stand. The attendance looked to be more than the 222 cited in the press but in such a big stand it is hard to assess numbers. The game was played in dry but cloudy conditions with the floodlights soon having to be put into action in the first half.
Alty captain, Mark Maddox, was back today but striker Niell Hardy was missing with a hip injury and right-back Gary Scott remained sidelined, too. So, Dave Gardner started up front with Rod Thornley, who is still nursing a knee injury. Peter Band was played on the right of midfield, with Barry Shuttleworth on the left and Steve Aspinall continued at right-back.
Gateshead were without captain Paul Thompson, who was injured. The Tynesiders have a young side but keeper Terry Burke was one name familiar to Alty fans, having played against us for Whitby Town on previous occasions.
GATESHEAD (White shirts with black sleeves, black shorts, white socks): 1. Terry BURKE, 2. Steve HARRISON, 3. David MORGAN, 4. Ben CATTANACH (capt.), 5. James CURTIS, 6. Lee BELL, 7. Mark RASMUSSEN, 8. Scott BLANDFORD, 9. Michael DIBIE, 10. Michael CHILTON, 11. Dave COLVIN. Subs: 12. Richard KENT, 14. Robert SOUTHERN, 15. Paul GIBBS, 16. George WEATHERLY, 17. Paul BUZZEO.
ALTRINCHAM (Red & white striped shirts, white shorts, red socks): 1. Stuart COBURN, 2. Steve ASPINALL, 3. Chris ADAMS, 4. Mark MADDOX (capt.), 5. Gary TALBOT, 6. Stephen ROSE, 7. Peter BAND, 8. Ian CRANEY, 9. Dave GARDNER, 10. Rod THORNLEY, 11. Barry SHUTTLEWORTH. Subs: 12. Steve LUNT, 13. Ashley TIMMS (gk), 14. Nick WELTON, 15. Michael REYNOLDS, 16. Paul GLYNN.
The game started with both sets of fans in good voice but they were soon stopped, albeit briefly, when a long throw by Morgan, from the left, caused the Alty defence to hesitate. Viewed from the distant stand, Coburn seemed to trip Gateshead's unmarked front man, Dibie, as he advanced into the box with only the keeper to beat (2 mins). However, the well-sited referee, Mr Brumwell, gave no foul and in the light of Dibie's eagerness to go to ground later in the game, he may well have been right.
Colvin's pace on the left soon won Gateshead a corner but Alty's only shot of goal in the early stages was a 25-yarder from Shuttleworth which was saved (7 mins). Gateshead continued to have the better of the play with a Talbot push on Dibie giving them a free-kick and then Mark Maddox having to make a fine tackle. For Altrincham, Dave Gardner in particular seemed unable to keep his feet on the soft surface as the Robins as a whole struggled to gather any forward momentum. However, a Thornley cross from the left just evaded Band's head before play stopped for Chilton to hobble off, holding the back of his thigh. No substitution was made and soon Chilton returned to the game. But whilst he was off the pitch, Blandford, one of several young players to have graduated recently from Gateshead's Reserves, fired in a superb shot from 30 yards which thudded back off Coburn's crossbar, with the Alty keeper at full stretch to his left (15 mins). Gateshead continued to look the livelier with Harrison and Rasmussen combining particularly well on the right.
Despite completing a touchline ban recently, Alty manager Graham Hetahcote had elected to start this game in the heart of the main stand, linked to his bench by a mobile phone or radio. However, he had seen enough from this vantage point after just 25 minutes, when he moved down to join his colleague in the Alty technical area at pitch-side. However, Gateshead continued to press with Coburn having to make a good claim from a left-wing cross. Alty gained some respite when Craney was fouled by Blandford inside the centre-circle but Adams's free-kick went via Band for a goalkick (29 mins). Adams, who had started the game well, then mis-headed the ball inside to his right on the edge of the Alty box. Chilton gathered the ball and drove a finely judged drive, with the outside of his foot, into the bottom corner of Coburn's net. Though the Alty keeper dived full length to his left, he could not help conceding his first goal in 301 minutes of action for the Robins (31 mins).
Altrincham were offering very little up front at this stage, with balls being lumped forward from the back either inaccurately or to isolated Altrincham colleagues who were then dispossessed. Gateshead, for their part, continued to attack and Coburn soon had to palm clear a cross from the dangerous Rasmussen. Alty's best effort was a header from Band from a Gardner cross which was so wide that Burke gathered it almost at the intersection of his six-yard box and the goal-line, to the right of his net (37 mins). After more pressing from Gateshead, a defensive error by the home side gave Band a shot but he mis-kicked. Stephen Rose was then booked for a late tackle on the tall centre-back, Curtis (41 mins). By now Alty had Craney rather than Gardner up front with Thornley, with Gardner on the right, but the visitors remained distinctly second best. The last significant action of the half was a surge forward by Blandford but his 25 yarder from right of goal was badly sliced wide (45 mins). Half-time came with Altrincham needing to make a vast improvement if, after the Cheshire Senior Cup and FA Cup, they were not to go out of their third successive knock-out cup competition at the first hurdle.
|Half-Time: GATESHEAD 1 ALTRINCHAM 0|
After an early skirmish between Adams and Dibie, play resumed after lengthy treatment to the Gateshead man. Then Bell sent a ball over a square Alty defence which saw both Dibie and Chilton in the clear. Dibie made a hash of a golden opportunity by lifting the ball over the bar from 10 yards (48 mins). Next, in attempting to shepherd the ball out of play, Gardner conceded a corner on the Gateshead left which Adams cleared well from Rasmussen's flag-kick (49 mins). Altrincham continued to go for the long ball upfield rather than the patient build up but they were beginning to show a little bit more spark than in the first half. From Rose's feed, Gardner then got past Morgan but a stretching Craney could only direct the resulting cross at Burke (52 mins). Next, an Adams free-kick, from 40 yards out, was just too high for Thornley to head back across the box. Another attack from Alty was ended when, once more, Gardner lost his footing. Alty did better soon afterwards when Craney fed Thornley and his cross from the right was just reached by a stretching Burke as Shuttleworth came in. With the keeper injured, play swept to the other end before Dibie went down very easily as he attempted to breakaway for Gateshead (59 mins). Play then stopped as Burke needed lengthy treatment to his right ankle before continuing; curiously Gateshead had no reserve keeper amongst the five men on their bench.
On the hour mark Gateshead won a corner which was cleared to Thornley, but without any support, the Alty striker was crowded out. Rasmussen then got in a long shot which Coburn saved comfortably before Alty's Craney won his side's first corner of the game (63 mins). Curtis cleared Shuttleworth's kick before Colvin got past Adams on the Gateshead right but his shot was deflected out for a corner. Soon after this, Blandford tried to repeat his first-half shot, this time from 25 yards, but his effort just cleared the bar (64 mins). Altrincham then won a rather fortunate corner after Rose had lost possession and, from Gardner's flag-kick, Band found himself with a clear header from the centre of the goalmouth. But he mis-headed his effort and the chance disappeared.
Altrincham now made a double change with Shuttleworth and Gardner giving way to two strikers, Lunt and Welton, who now formed a three-pronged attack with Thornley in the middle, Welton on the right and Lunt on the left (67 mins). Altrincham now became a bit more of an attacking threat but three successive throw-ins on the right from Aspinall were as good as it got, initally. Then Gateshead brought on Weatherly for Dibie (71 mins). A 40-yard volley, wide of the target followed from Craney before Band made a creditable attempt to lob Burke from 25 yards following a poor clearance (72 mins). A Band header then looped to Burke as Alty continued to press without looking hugely dangerous. A wild challenge by Rose saw the already booked Alty midfielder lucky to escape any further punishment at all as play continued. At the other end, Lunt won the ball well in the air from a Maddox ball forward but it ran to Burke (76 mins). Maddox was then penalised about 23 yards out to the left of goal but before the free-kick could be taken the linesman was consulted by the referee and a lecture for Talbot followed. Rose then committed a foul as Altrincham's revival seemed to have stalled and Gateshead were now once again doing the pressing (78 mins). Gateshead gained their fourth free-kick within shooting range in as many minutes when Maddox was penalised for a foul on Chilton but Morgan drove his effort wide from the free-kick (81 mins). It seemed as if Altrincham's ten minutes or so of pressure after the substitutions had come to nothing.
Next, from Weatherly's pass Chilton was caught offside but neverthless drove the ball into the net. However, he escaped a booking from the referee. With the game entering the last two minutes of normal time but with what were to be 5 minutes of added time to come, it all looked over for Altrincham. But then Welton, who had been putting in plenty of effort on the right, got hold of a loose ball some 25 yards out, towards the right touchline. His well-struck left foot shot towards the far post took a deflection off a Gateshead body and curled into the net past Burke to give Altrincham an unexpected equaliser (83 mins). Then a minute or so later Lunt did well on the left and got past his man to deliver a cross into the box where Welton had got behind the defence, who appealed vainly for offside. Welton lifted the ball smartly over the stranded keeper Burke from about 12 yards out in the left of the box to give Altrincham the most unforeseen of leads in the last minute of normal time. However, five minutes of added time were to be played. Almost immediately after the restart Lunt lashed in a fine shot from 25 yards which went narrowly wide and then Thornley and Welton combined but the latter's volley also went narrowly wide; a further goal would have been little short of an outrage in the home fans' view! When the final whistle arrived, Altrincham's team celebrated wildly. Few of the players or fans can have witnessed such a remarkable escape from the jaws of defeat and it was hard not to sympathise with the Gateshead supporters who had seen a good performance from their team undone, for the second time in a week, by a late opponents' goal.
The thin line between success and failure in football was underlined today. Altrincham left celebrating their fourth successive win when they could so easily have been consigned to their third successive first round defeat in the knock-out round of a cup competition this season. Despite the ultimately happy outcome, Graham Heathcote must have been concerned by the poor performance of his side for much of this game but if, as the cliché goes, a good side is one that wins when playing indifferently, he may not be too unhappy.
|Full-Time: GATESHEAD 1 ALTRINCHAM 2|