LANCASTER CITY 0
UniBond Premier Division Match,
played on Tuesday, 16 December, 2003
After an entertaining first half, in which Marcus Hallows went close early on, the second half was a great disappointment with little fluid play as the action was broken up by frequent free-kicks, throw-ins and substitutions. One of the subs, Steve Lunt was unable to connect with the best chance of the game early in the second half and despite later throwing three men forward, Altrincham could not score. Lancaster had fewer sights of goal and will be the happier side with the point. This was Alty's 12th league draw in 22 games and they have now reached the halfway point of the season in 14th place.
REFEREE: Mr G. T. Stott
Lancaster are now managed by former Robins' player Phil Wilson, who had a good record as manager against Altrincham when in charge at Stalybridge Celtic.City had already knocked Altrincham out of the FA Cup this season, but that game was at the Giant Axe.
Gary Talbot was back after illness and his centre-back partner, and captain, Mark Maddox resumed after suspension. Their return allowed Chris Adams to revert to left-back and Peter Band to midfield. Steve Lunt and Barry Shuttleworth dropped to the bench, where Kieran Lugsden retained his place after a promising debut as a substitute at Barrow. Stuart Wright and Marcus Hallows started up front for the Robins in the continued absence of Hardy and Thornley.
Lancaster included Tony Sullivan, looking leaner than in his unproductive period with Altrincham last season.
ALTRINCHAM (Red & white striped shirts, black shorts and red socks): 1. Stuart COBURN, 2. Steve ASPINALL, 3. Chris ADAMS, 4. Mark MADDOX (capt.), 5. Gary TALBOT, 6. Stephen ROSE, 7. Gary SCOTT, 8. Ian CRANEY, 9. Peter BAND, 10. Marcus HALLOWS, 11. Stuart WRIGHT. Subs: 12. Barry SHUTTLEWORTH, 14. Steve LUNT, 15. Kieran LUGSDEN.
LANCASTER CITY (All white): 1. Kevin WELSBY, 2. Ryan ELDERTON, 3. Andy SCOTT, 4. Farrell KILBANE, 5. John ROBERTSON, 6. Paul SPARROW (capt.), 7. Phil CLARKSON, 8. Tony SULLIVAN, 9. Steve JONES, 10. Ricky MERCER, 11. Neil PRINCE. Subs: 12. Jamie HUGHES,14. Neil UBERSCHAR, 15. Phil BAYLISS.
The game kicked off a couple of minutes late with Altrincham attacking the Golf Road end, where their supporters were once again in good singing voice. What was to be one of the best chances of the game arose very early on. Maddox's clearance was well flicked on by Stuart Wright and an error by the covering Lancaster defender allowed Marcus Hallows in on goal, in the right side of the Lancaster box. Keeper Welsby came out well and blocked Hallows's shot with his legs to stop Altrincham taking the lead (3 mins). Lancaster responded by going to the other end where the silver-booted Prince got in a good, low shot from 20 yards to the left of goal, which went narrowly wide of Coburn's left upright (4 mins). Craney, Wright and Hallows were all looking lively going forward in the early stages and it was Craney who starred in the next action of note. He received the ball by the left touchline inside his own half, got past Elderton, and hared up the left wing before being driven inside. City captain Sparrow managed to divert the ball to Wright, after Craney had advanced some 40 yards. Wright returned it to Craney for a shot which was unfortunately only half hit (6 mins). Next Wright got in a 25 yard left-foot shot which was too high to trouble Welsby.
At the back, Rose headed clear from Sullivan's cross as play settled into an entertaining end to end pattern at this stage. Alty's next effort was a long range shot from Rose which went wide of Welsby's right post (12 mins). Talbot then saw off Sullivan at the other end. Lancaster had to make an early change when Jones went off with a leg injury and he was replaced by 16-goal Jamie Hughes up front (13 mins). Rose got in his second long-shot of the night, this time a very well-hit drive from almost 30 yards which only just cleared the bar to leave the Alty midfielder still without a goal after 74 starts for the club (16 mins).
Aspinall and Adams were getting forward well for Alty on the flanks, with Aspinall also taking most of the free-kicks. From one of these, on halfway, the ball was half-cleared to Craney, who chested the ball down well but saw his shot from 25 yards rise over the bar (19 mins). An 18 yard header from Sullivan then dropped easily for Coburn at the other end before a foul on Hughes gave Lancaster a free-kick 35 yards out. Scott blocked Prince's resulting shot well and the ball was scrambled away. Alty won the game's first corner when a fine 50 yard ball forward from Craney found Hallows, who won the flag-kick on the Alty right. Aspinall's corner was cleared back to Aspinall and he drove a fierce ball across the goalmouth but no one got a touch on it (22 mins).
Next, Wright and Hallows combined well, with Hallows getting past his marker but he was driven to the right corner where he got the ball to Aspinall and from the return pass Hallows's shot from 20 yards was well held by Welsby (24 mins). After Kilbane, at one end, and Talbot, at the other, had seen off attacks, Coburn's quick-thinking clearance found Hallows in a threatening position on the left but the striker slightly lost his footing but did win a corner on the left. Band got his head to Aspinall's corner but the ball went narrowly wide of Welsby's left post (30 mins). The remainder of the half brought plenty of effort from both sides but no clear openings as the defences held firm. All of the game's best chances had fallen to Altrincham in a generally entertaining first half.
|Half-Time: ALTRINCHAM 0 LANCASTER CITY 0|
Alty kicked off in the second half and, as in the first period, almost took the lead early on. Band found Hallows, whose neat lay off set up Craney for a superb right-foot shot which Welsby did very well to tip over the bar from the edge of the box (49 mins). The resulting corner, on the left, was soon followed by another, conceded by Kilbane, also on the Alty left. Welsby dropped Aspinall's corner, this time, but Talbot could only hook the loose ball over the bar. Lancaster then won their first corner through Prince on the left but this was cleared by a combination of Rose and Adams. Lancaster did better when Mellor dispossessed Craney and his well-hit shot just cleared the Alty bar (53 mins). Following a Robertson freekick into the Alty box, the home side survived a vigorous appeal for handball in the box.
Alty now brought on Lunt for Wright up-front (55 mins). Wright had done well in the first half and left the pitch to a deserved round of applause. The game was now punctuated by minor fouls, offsides and throw-ins. From a foul by Elderton on Band, a freekick was awarded. Talbot headed Aspinall's freekick but Welsby caught it comfortably. Then, yet another bit of excellent skill from Craney saw him head the ball to himself and race forward to feed Hallows, whose shot from the right fringes of the box, was half-hit to his left where Lunt was coming in, unmarked. Sadly the young striker got his feet tangled and failed to make any contact with the ball as the goal beckoned with only Welsby to beat from 12 yards (58 mins). Lunt looked like he might make amends a couple of minutes late when he won the ball well and advanced into the left front of the box. However, his shot was mis-hit and went across the goalmouth to safety for Lancaster (60 mins).
Soon afterwards, when Mr Stott awarded Lancaster a corner which Altrincham had believed to be a goalkick, supporters feared a repetition of the same situation last Saturday at Barrow when a goal had resulted against us from a controversial corner award. However, Sullivan's corner tonight came to nothing as Alty were awarded a free-kick with the ball still in the air.
The petty fouls and other stoppages continued with monotonous frequency as the game failed to recapture the lively rhythm of its opening half hour. A tame shot from Sullivan to Coburn was followed by Scott's winning a corner for Altrincham. After this had been cleared, Welsby was fortunate that Mr Stott did not judge Sparrow's fierce ball towards his own goal as a back-pass when he caught the ball. Next, another good surge forward from Craney won Altrincham their sixth corner of the night. This was half cleared back to the taker, Aspinall and from his cross Talbot's header flashed wide (70 mins). Another corner soon followed from which Welsby failed to get the ball and he stayed down on the ground, rather unconvincingly, until he got treatment and some sarcastic comments from the home crowd.
Rose then advanced 50 yards upfield with the ball and found Hallows but the striker got the ball under his feet and the opening closed (75 mins). Lancaster now replaced Prince, who had played well, with Bayliss, signed from Chorley recently (77 mins). City now began to spin out time with Sullivan and Robertson both guilty more than once in the closing stages of hanging onto the ball when freekicks had been awarded against them, whilst Sullivan's feigned attempt "accidentally" to misdirect the ball back to an Alty player convinced no one.
When Hughes got the ball to Clarkson, he shot over the bar (79 mins) as Altrincham now adopted a 3-4-3 formation with Band joining Maddox and Talbot at the back and Craney joining Lunt and Hallows up front. Coburn saw some action when he made a good save from Sullivan (82 mins). At the other end a Craney shot was blocked and came to Lunt whose lay off to Adams saw the left back win his side a corner on the left (85 mins). Alty continued to press but Aspinall's shot over the bar was the nearest they came to a goal before Hallows gave way to Kieran Lugsden, a prolific striker from Alty's youth team, making his home debut (87 mins). Altrincham won their ninth and final corner a minute later through Craney but this only led to a City goalkick (88 mins). Kieran Lugsden had only been given three minutes to make an impact and he almost did when Rose's feed saw him get to the by-line, right of goal, and from his cross Adams got in a shot which Welsby saved (89 mins). That was to be the last chance of a game in which Alty won the corner count 9-2 but spurned several convertible chances to record their twelfth draw in 22 league games. Whilst a win would have taken them to 10th place, the draw left them 14th and still pursuing the top-13 finish required to qualify for the new Conference feeder division for next season.
Stephen Rose won the Man of the Match award and his midfield colleague Ian Craney also had an excellent game. Whilst Alty rued missed chances, Lancaster created few openings and, in retrospect, it was perhaps predictable that a game between the two sides whose aggregate "for and against" goals totals this season are the two lowest in the division should end goalless.
|Full-Time: ALTRINCHAM 0 LANCASTER CITY 0|