BARROW (1) 2
ALTRINCHAM (1) 1
UniBond Premier Division Match, played on Saturday, 13 December, 2003 at 3p.m.
A goal in added time at the end of the game robbed a very depleted Altrincham side of a hard-earned and deserved point. Barrow took the lead after 29 minutes when Hume headed home a corner which had been awarded after the Alty defence had shepherded a ball out of play expecting a goal-kick. Alty equalised when Salmon headed into his own net from an Ian Craney cross from the by-line to the right of goal (39 minutes). The very late winner was a header from Knight following a throw-in on the right. To cap Alty's disappointment, Steve Aspinall picked up his fifth yellow card and therefore a suspension.
REFEREE: Mr G. Hilton
Heavy rain once again preceded a Barrow v Altrincham game at Holker Street and was to fall again during the second half today. Barrow were celebrating their recent emergence from four years in financial administration but they like Altrincham had drawn 11 league games this season, so the outcome was likely to be tight. The Robins came into the game unbeaten in their last 10 league and cup matches and with the best unbeaten league run in the UniBond (6 games).
Alty arrived at Holker Street with an extremely depleted squad. Apart from the season-long injured Danny Murphy and Sean Smith, also missing today were Gary Talbot (chest and throat infection), Niell Hardy (failed fitness test), Nick Welton and Michael Reynolds (unavailable), Rod Thornley (awaiting a knee operation on Monday) and Mark Maddox (suspended). So three 17 year-old Youth team players came into the squad. These were the Lugsden twins (Kelvin and Kieran) and Lewis Chalmers, all of whom were named for a UniBond Premier Division match for the first time today. Indeed, Lewis was making his first appearance in the first-team squad whilst Kieran and Kelvin Lugsden had played as substitutes in the UniBond Cup at Workington.
Stuart Wright was also making his first league start for Altrincham whilst Marcus Hallows and Steve Lunt were only starting their second league matches for the Robins this season. The absence of both regular centre-backs meant that Peter Band and Chris Adams moved to these positions, whilst Barry Shuttleworth dropped back from midfield to left-back in place of Adams. Steve Lunt started on the left, with Stuart Wright partnering Marcus Hallows up front. Ian Craney captained the side in the absence of Maddox and Thornley.
Barrow were without the suspended Neil Campbell, formerly of Doncaster Rovers. In the side was in-form striker Wayne Curtis, on loan for Morecambe.
BARROW (White shirts, blue shorts, white socks): 1. Simon BISHOP, 2. Simon SHAW, 3. Scott MAXFIELD, 4. Mark HUME (capt.), 5. Mark SALMON, 6. Graham ANTHONY, 7. Gavin KNIGHT, 8. Andy HILL, 9. Steve GAUGHAN, 10. Wayne CURTIS, 11. Lee WARREN. Subs: 12. Ian ARNOLD, 14. Michael RANKINE, 15. Steve RIDLEY.
ALTRINCHAM (Red & white striped shirts, black shorts and socks): 1. Stuart COBURN, 2. Steve ASPINALL, 3. Barry SHUTTLEWORTH, 4. Peter BAND, 5. Chris ADAMS, 6. Stephen ROSE, 7. Gary SCOTT, 8. Ian CRANEY (capt.), 9. Stuart WRIGHT, 10. Marcus HALLOWS, 11. Steve LUNT. Subs: 12. Kieran LUGSDEN, 14. Kelvin LUGSDEN, 15. Lewis CHALMERS.
In the absence of an assistant manager following the departure of Dalton Steele, the suspended Alty captain Mark Maddox, a former Barrow player, supervised the warm-up routines for Altrincham before kick-off. Considering the heavy rain of the previous two days, the Holker Street was in good condition though necessarily soft. A strong wind was blowing down the pitch from the Cross Bar End and therefore it was behind the home side in the first half.
The early exchanges were punctuated by treatment for Wright before a Knight free-kick from 25 yards, awarded somewhat harshly against Aspinall for alleged handball, was driven into the Alty wall (5 mins). After a fairly stuttering start by both sides, the first clear chance came Alty's way. It arose when Scott, Aspinall, Wright and Hallows combined and Lunt got in a well-struck, low shot from just outside the left front edge of the box. Bishop made a fine save diving low to his left to thwart Altrincham (10 mins).
At the back, both Peter Band and Chris Adams settled well to their new roles with Band making a fine tackle followed almost immediately by a firm, clearing header. Craney then tried a curler from 20 yards but was well off target (13 mins). The travelling Altrincham supporters were in good voice as the sides continued to contest the match fairly evenly. After a Craney foul, Knight got in a header from the resultant free-kick, which Coburn watched calmly as it went past the post. Goalmouth chances were few and the next effort was a scuffed effort from Knight which ran easily to Coburn (26 mins). After Rose had been caught late by Warren, the Barrow man was booked (27 mins). Then Band accidentally caught Maxfield before the Alty defence shepherded a long ball out of play, clearly expecting a goalkick. But Mr Hilton amazed the visitors by awarding a corner kick on the left. Almost inevitably from this controversial decision, a goal resulted. The corner by Anthony came beyond the back post where the incoming Hume headed it firmly at goal. Gary Scott, on the line, cleared the ball on to the crossbar before a melee saw it cross the line. However Hume was awarded the goal on the grounds that the defender's clearance had been from behind the line (29 mins).
Boosted by the goal, Barrow almost added a second immediately. To the left of goal, Knight was played in behind the Alty defence, which stopped and appealed vainly for offside. As Knight entered the box Coburn came out diagonally to meet him and made a magnificent save, not only stopping Knight's well-hit shot but also holding the ball cleanly (30 mins). The Alty keeper did even better moments later when the ball was half-cleared to Hill, who found Knight, and this time the Alty keeper made a superb one-handed save, low to his left (32 mins). Then Knight got behind Adams but his shot from the left only found the side netting (33 mins). At this stage it looked as if Altrincham were in for a very difficult afternoon but they soon regained their composure though their own next effort, a shot from Craney, was hit weakly after the Alty captain had made space well. Craney was soon threatening again, dribbling into the box but seeing his shot result in a goalkick (36 mins).
Alty continued to press and, after initially losing possession, Hallows battled to regain the ball on half way, right of goal. The ball then came via Aspinall, to Craney, who got past Hume to the by-line. His cross was headed firmly into the roof of his own net by the retreating Salmon at the near post, to make it 1-1 (39 mins). The entertaining match continued as Lunt, Shuttleworth and Wright combined well but only a goalkick resulted for Barrow. At the other end, Coburn comfortably caught the lively Curtis's shot on the bounce (42 mins) and soon, a fine tackle from Shuttleworth saw off Gaughan. Curtis then wasted a good chance just before the interval when he got the ball, unmarked in space inside the Alty box. However, as he stretched to control the ball the chance disappeared as he mis-controlled it; a first-time shot would have troubled Coburn. Altrincham had their keeper to thank for his two magnificent first-half saves but Bishop had been extended early on by Lunt so a level score was not unreasonable at the break.
|Half-Time: BARROW 1 ALTRINCHAM 1|
There was an early scare for Alty when the normally indestructible Peter Band went down off the ball with what seemed to be a shoulder injury but he continued after treatment (46 mins). Altrincham won their first corner of the half after 48 minutes through Wright's efforts from a Rose pass. The second half started slowly with little more of note till Barrow won a corner (57 mins). From this Aspinall prompted a Wright breakaway but, after his lay-off to Scott, the Alty no.7's return pass was overhit in the strong wind. Rain now started to lash down into the Barrow team's faces and the fans out in the open ends ran for cover. Alty continued to defend well but balls forward out of defence were being overhit in the squally conditions. However, Lunt did well to get to the by-line on the left and seemed hard done-by not to win a corner (62 mins). Then a fine pass from Knight set Gaughan at goal at the other end but his shot went across goal and just wide (63 mins). With the rain still lashing down Wright then did well to get free on the left after interchanging passes with Lunt. However, Wright slipped as he crossed and sliced the ball out for a goalkick (65 mins). Altrincham now pressed forward but no chances came before Barrow brought on the tall Rankine, for Gaughan, up front (69 mins). Coburn remained a spectator at this stage but Aspinall had to be alert to see off Curtis on a counter-attack (72 mins).
Lunt continued to battle well on the left as the rain eased off at last. After Adams had been penalised a Barrow freekick led to a corner for the hosts but Anthony's kick was cleared (76 mins). Alty now brought on 17 year-old Kieran Lugsden for his league debut, replacing his fellow Youth team colleague Steve Lunt. Kieran went up-front whilst Wright moved to left midfield. Lugsden was soon involved and following Coburn's fine throw-out to Wright, the Alty number nine exhanged a pass with Lugsden but Wright's final pass was inaccurate. However, the Barrow clearance came to Craney whose shot was deflected for a corner on the right. This was cleared. Alty continued to press until Shuttleworth had to put in a good clearing tackle at the other end. Hallows then tried a curler from 25 yards but it went wide (83 mins). After play had stopped for a lecture to Hume, Lugsden played a fine through ball for Hallows but his shot went wide of Bishop's right post (84 mins). Then Wright and Lugsden combined again on the left but after Wright's cross had been cleared, Aspinall and Anthony collided in a tackle and the Alty right-back was booked as he had arrived marginally late. Both players needed treatment before resuming. It was Aspinall's fifth caution which will mean a suspension to add to Graham Heathcote's availability problems (85 mins).
Barrow wound themselves up for a late onslaught with Rankine beginning to make his presence felt up front. A Barrow corner resulted when a Barrow shot hit an Alty defender. This was cleared and from the counter attack Lugsden again found space on the left of goal but his pass inside for Craney was intercepted. After Knight had appeared to push Wright 40 yards out from the Alty goal, play nevertheless continued and the ball came to Rankine - it took an excellent covering tackle from Band to see him off and concede a throw on the right some 25 yards from the Alty goal. With play deep into the three minutes of added time, following the throw-in, a Barrow cross by Shaw, from the right, found Knight on the centre of the goalmouth and he headed firmly past Coburn to undo all of Altrincham's good work. It was the first time that Coburn had been beaten twice in one game since his return to Alty eleven games ago and the first time he was to finish on the losing side.
This was a spirited performance by a much changed Altrincham side including many newcomers unfamiliar with each other's styles. Defeat was particularly harsh on the defence where Coburn's fine saves and the determined performances of the much-changed back-four deserved at least a point.
|Full-Time: BARROW 2 ALTRINCHAM 1|