HARROGATE TOWN 0
UniBond League Premier Division Match,
played on Saturday, 15 November, 2003 at 3p.m.
Altrincham more than deserved a point against a Harrogate Town team which started the game 12 places above them. In an entertaining game, man of the match Craney went close with a number of efforts from outside the box. Alty, now unbeaten in six league and cup games in which they have conceded just one goal, rise to 14th in the table.
REFEREE: Mr G W Foulkes
Altrincham had yet to beat or even score against Harrogate in a league match since the Yorkshire side's promotion to the Premier Division last season. Whilst 12 places separated the sides in the league table at kick-off, recent form was closer with Altrincham ninth and Harrogate lying fifth over the last four matches. The game was watched by Altrincham's best home crowd of the season to date.
Niell Hardy was out after picking up a groin strain at Worksop last Saturday but, despite the publicly expressed fears of manager Graham Heathcote, Niell's strike partner Rod Thornley was fit to start. There was a welcome return for Gary Scott who had missed the last three league games through injury but it was a measure of how well Steve Aspinall has performed at right-back that Gary did not resume in his customary position but, instead, on the right side of midfield. Ian Craney started in support of Rod Thornley up front, with Peter Band and Stephen Rose in central midfield. Gary Talbot was another welcome returnee, having recovered from the flu which sidelined him last week.
Harrogate had Robbie Whellans, back after a long injury absence, on the bench. Curiously Harrogate's change-strip was much closer in colour to Altrincham's colours than their normal yellow colours.
ALTRINCHAM (Red & white striped shirts, black 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. Gary SCOTT, 10. Rod THORNLEY, 11. Barry SHUTTLEWORTH. Subs: 12. Steve LUNT, 14. Dave GARDNER, 15. Nick WELTON.
HARROGATE TOWN (All claret, with blue sleeves and trim on shirts and on sock-tops): 1. Liam SUTCLIFFE, 2. James McDAID, 3. Simon STURDY, 4. James RIORDAN, 5. Neil ASPIN, 6. Mark FORD, 7. James TURLEY, 8. Mark ATKINS, 9. Marc SMITH, 10. Glenn NAYLOR, 11. Colin HUNTER. Subs: 12. Robbie WHELLANS, 14. Scott BONSALL, 15. Mick McNAUGHTON.
With manager Graham Heathcote resuming his touchline position after watching part or all of the last five games from the stands, the teams changed ends and Altrincham kicked off towards the 20/20 Hale End on a dry but cloudy afternoon. A Gary Scott foul on the Harrogate left gave the visitors an early chance to send a free-kick into the Alty box but Atkins's deadball kick went straight to Coburn's arms (2 mins). Harrogate had the better of the opening few minutes, passing the ball around neatly but not creating any clear openings. However, the first shot on goal, albeit well over the top, came from Stephen Rose from 25 yards after 9 minutes. Rod Thornley was chasing the ball energetically despite not being fully fit but it was a Peter Band pass to Ian Craney which set up the first good shot of the game. Ian's low drive from 20 yards forced Sutcliffe to a full-length save (10 mins). After a stoppage to treat Thornley, who appeared to have been caught accidentally, off the ball, Chris Adams played the ball into Craney and his diagonal ball from the left of goal almost found Gary Scott, who had stolen into the back of the box but the ball went out for a goal-kick (14 mins). After a Talbot header had skidded out to Smith, the lanky striker's volley went wide of Coburn's left post from the edge of the box (16 mins). It was Craney who threatened again soon afterwards when good work from Talbot saw the Alty midfielder advance from halfway and, from 22 yards, his shot went narrowly wide of the keeper's left stick (17 mins). After a Hunter cross had landed on the roof of the Alty net, Craney once again advanced from halfway and from Thornley's resulting cross from the right, Band had the ball tipped off his head by Sutcliffe, towards the back post to give Altrincham a corner (19 mins). Aspinall's corner from the left was well held by Sutcliffe and soon his counterpart, Coburn, had to race to the right edge of his box to kick into touch (20 mins).
A Hunter drive went narrowly wide for Harrogate from 20 yards before Rose blocked an effort from Turley. Maddox then gave away a corner unnecessarily as Coburn came to gather the ball behind him but the Alty keeper gathered the flag-kick. A ball from Aspinall led to Craney's shot being blocked before Aspinall's fine ball for Thornley prompted Aspin to trip Thornley 22 yards out to concede a freekick. The former Leeds man was very lucky not to be booked for this offence as Thornley was arguably clear of the defence, had he gathered the ball unimpeded. Craney drove the resulting freekick into the wall. After Riordan's 30 yarder had gone well over the top (27 mins), Aspinall again did well to toe-poke the ball away from Smith as he advanced towards Coburn. The sides traded attacks before Coburn led rip at his defence for allowing Naylor a diving header, which went just wide, from McDaid's cross from the right (34 mins). Naylor then won a corner off Maddox, taken by Atkins, but Alty scrambled the ball clear. From Adams and Shuttleworth's feed, Craney got in his third long range strike of the half, his firmly hit shot going just wide from 20 yards (36 mins). Thornley was then caught offside before a foul on Adams yielded a freekick which the Alty left-back took himself. He found Talbot but Gary could not direct his header firmly enough to trouble Sutcliffe. Craney then won Alty a corner following which Shuttleworth was felled by Naylor, 35 yards out. Adams's freekick found Band but Sutcliffe gathered his clip into the box. A shot from Atkins then earned his side a corner on the left as the two minutes of added-time board was displayed. From this corner, Hunter's 20 yarder was well beaten out by Coburn, diving to his left but the ball soon came to Smith, who headed over the bar. Before the interval Alty contrived a good move which ended with Rose's block tackle rebounding close to the Harrogate goal, though in the process the Alty midfielder injured his foot, but he had won his side a corner on the right. However, Shuttlworth did not make the best of this, putting his flag-kick into the side netting to leave the game goalless at half-time.
|Half-Time: ALTRINCHAM 0 HARROGATE TOWN 0|
Stephen Rose started the seond half limping badly and soon Harrogate won a corner from Aspinall's clearance of McDaid's cross. In fact, Harrogate enjoyed the better of the opening minutes of the half but no real chances were created. Rose finally gave way to Lunt after 51 minutes. This meant that Shuttleworth moved to central midfield as Lunt assumed the left-flank position. Graham Heathcote was far from pleased with his side at this point and he had more reason to be be annoyed when Aspin fouled Craney and, once again, escaped with no punishment other than a free-kick award against him. Adams's free-kick yielded a corner, from Aspinall, which Maddox headed just over the bar (55 mins).
Steve Lunt then did well to get onto Craney's pass on the left and he beat Riordan but his cross from the by-line came just after the ball had gone out of play (56 mins). Alty were now playing well but Maddox had to make a fine interception to see off a Harrogate breakaway. Alty were soon back at the other end, however, with Craney's feed setting up Scott, whose well-hit shot was brilliantly tipped over the bar by Sutcliffe for a corner (58 mins). Harrogate were now penned back till Smith headed well wide from a Hunter cross (59 mins). Maddox was then clattered, late and from behind by Smith, who amazingly escaped with no booking or lecture for his crude foul (61 mins). After Maddox, Scott and Aspinall had combined, Scott's cross from the right was relayed by Lunt to Craney who took it to the left of the box from where his shot went narrowly wide once again (62 mins). Having ignored sveral transgressions by Aspin and Smith, referee Foulkes then inexplicably booked Chris Adams for a pretty minor foul on the Alty left, against McDaid (63 mins). Although Altrincham were now on top, Harrogate won a corner soon after this but their pre-rehearsed corner move went pear-shaped.
At the other end a good cross from Adams was well won by Band but his firm header went just wide of the keeper's right post (67 mins). Then from Aspinall's cross Thornley forced a fine save from Sutcliffe from a flicked header (69 mins). Altrincham had created a hatful of chances but were unable to convert any of them whilst Harrogate had caused Coburn little concern so far in the second half. Altrincham replaced Thornley by Welton (72 mins) and after Hunter's 30 yarder had flashed over the bar, Naylor gave way to Whellans for Harrogate (73 mins). A Harrogate corner followed which Coburn caught before a Welton feed, at the other end, led to Lunt's shot across goal from the left, which won his side a corner on the right. Yet another long shot from Craney went close to goal from 25 yards (76 mins) as Alty made a nonsense of the gap in league position between the sides. After a shot had hit Adams, Harrogate won a corner. They then replaced the ineffective Smith by McNaughton up front (79 mins) following a corner from Hunter, which went for a goalkick.
Harrogate rallied in the closing stages and won another corner before a fine defensive tackle on Turley by Lunt stopped the Harrogate man as he advanced on Coburn, but the offside flag had gone up (81 mins). Following a Coburn freekick Scott's cross from the right found Lunt but his outstretched left foot failed to connect and the ball ran to Sutcliffe. As Harrogate continued to press, Maddox and his defence saw off the threat without any major alarms. Alty's last chance came when a foul on Welton gave Aspinall a freekick from just inside the Harrogate half. Talbot rose well to win the ball but his header dropped to Sutcliffe (89 mins). Ian Craney was deservedly named man of the match just before the final whistle blew on Alty's second successive goalless draw.
Altrincham are now unbeaten in six league and cup games and keeper Stuart Coburn has conceded just one goal in his nine hours between the posts for Alty since he returned to Moss Lane from Leigh RMI. Altrincham are now looking very tight at the back with Steve Aspinall having slotted in very well into the back four during the absence of Scott at right-back. Scott himself had a good game on the right of midfield. However, it was the inability to convert a stream of chances which once again left Altricnham with one point rather than three. Nevertheless, Harrogate contributed much to an entertaining game but they too lacked bite in front of goal as the game gave credence to Graham Heathcote's assertion last week that there is little difference between the top of the table teams and those chasing them.
|Full-Time: ALTRINCHAM 0 HARROGATE TOWN 0|