Match Report


UniBond Premier Division Match,
played on Friday, 26 December, 2003
at 3p.m.


Altrincham let three points slip when Phil Eastwood completed a hat-trick for Celtic, a minute into the four minutes of added time at the end of the game. Eastwood had also scored at the end of the first-half, putting his side undeservedly ahead 1-0 after Altrincham chances had gone begging. Two goals early in the second half saw Alty move 2-1 ahead. The first was a penalty by Aspinall after Craney had been felled (48 mins) and then debutant David Holt netted (56 mins). Eastwood made it 2-2 from the spot when Talbot was adjudged to have fouled Denham just inside the box (71 mins) before Aspinall's free-kick somehow evaded Bowling in the Celtic goal to make it 3-2 to Alty (73 mins). And, then, came Celtic's late leveller to reproduce last year's 3-3 draw in the same fixture.


  • 42 mins: Phil EASTWOOD (Altrincham 0 Stalybridge Celtic 1)
  • 48 mins: Steve ASPINALL (penalty) (Altrincham 1 Stalybridge Celtic 1)
  • 56 mins: David HOLT (Altrincham 2 Stalybridge Celtic 1)
  • 71 mins: Phil EASTWOOD (penalty) (Altrincham 2 Stalybridge Celtic 2)
  • 73 mins: Steve ASPINALL (Altrincham 3 Stalybridge Celtic 2)
  • 87 mins: Phil EASTWOOD (Altrincham 3 Stalybridge Celtic 3)

    REFEREE: Mr S. Turner


    After the postponement of last Saturday's UniBond Cup game, the Moss Lane pitch was in good condition for today's league game, with just the goalmouths lightly sanded. However, rain started to fall in the hour before kick-off and continued steadily throughout the game.

    Celtic had been going through a period of poor form, especially at home, whilst Altrincham had lost just once in their previous twelve outings.

    Over the previous six seasons, Altrincham and Stalybridge have only been in the same division three times and the league match results were:

  • 97/98: Stalybridge in Conference, Altrincham in UniBond.
  • 98/99: 12/12/98 Alty won 2-1 (H) but in 30.3.99, lost 3-1 (A)
  • 99/00: Altrincham in Conference, Stalybridge in UniBond.
  • 00/01: 3/10/00 drew 0-0 (H), 24/2/01 lost 0-1 (A)
  • 01/02: Stalybridge in Conference, Altrincham in UniBond.
  • 02/03: 5/10/02 drew 3-3 (H), 14/12/02 lost 0-2 (A)

    The sides had already met this season in the Cheshire Senior Cup when Stalybridge won 2-0 at Moss Lane.

    Referee Mr Turner may be remembered by Altrincham fans as the official who sent off Chris Adams and then allowed Bradford's controversial equalising goal after Richard Acton had been bundled over in March 2003 .


    Alty were without the injured Mark Maddox, as well as the recuperating Rod Thornley, so Ian Craney assumed the captain's role today. Peter Band partnered Gary Talbot, in place of Maddox at centre-back whilst, up front, 19 year-old David Holt, on loan from Stockport County, made his debut alongside another loan-player, Chorley's Marcus Hallows. The Alty bench was composed of three attacking players, Niell Hardy, returning from injury, Steve Lunt and Stuart Wright.

    Continuing in goal for Celtic was Ian Bowling, on loan from Worksop Town, and former Leigh RMI man Ian Monk came into the side which had lost against Ashton United last Saturday. Another loan player who had just joined Celtic was Harrogate Town's Scott Bonsall, who started at no.8 today. Former Alty keeper Ian Senior was also present as the Stalybridge goalkeeping coach, as was former Alty centre-back Terry Bowker, who is currently out of the Celtic side.


    ALTRINCHAM (Red & white striped shirts, black shorts and red socks): 1. Stuart COBURN, 2. Steve ASPINALL, 3. Chris ADAMS, 4. Peter BAND, 5. Gary TALBOT, 6. Stephen ROSE, 7. Gary SCOTT, 8. Ian CRANEY, 9. Marcus HALLOWS, 10. David HOLT, 11. Barry SHUTTLEWORTH. Subs: 12. Niell HARDY, 14. Stuart WRIGHT, 15. Steve LUNT.

    STALYBRIDGE CELTIC (Yellow shirts, green shorts & socks): 1. Ian BOWLING, 2. Ben SMITH, 3. Lee TODD, 4. Barrie KEELING, 5. Greg PEARCE, 6. Nathan WHARTON (capt.), 7. Darren BOWMAN, 8. Scott BONSALL, 9. Chris DENHAM, 10. Phil EASTWOOD, 11. Ian MONK. Subs: 12. Kevin PARR, 14. Dave GERMAN, 15. Kenny MAYERS.


    Altrincham kicked off towards the Golf Road End, with the breeze behind them, but play halted after only 30 seconds when Gary Talbot's massive clearance into the Popular Side allotments saw him catch Chris Denham, who needed treatment before resuming. Altrincham started the better of the two sides and after 4 minutes a cross from Adams found Scott but his header skimmed wide. But a fine ball from Smith then got Denham into a threatening position for the visitors before Peter Band moved smartly across to clear the danger. Stuart Coburn entertained the crowd when he sold Denham a dummy and dribbled the ball clear. It was less unexpected when Ian Craney likewise glided past a Stalybridge player, in this case Wharton, before finding Hallows. He, in turn, found Shuttleworth to his left and then got on the end of Shuttleworth's well-struck cross but headed it narrowly wide of Bowling's left upright. Then Hallows and Scott combined well and it took a defender's header, flashing past his own goal, to see off this Alty attack at the cost of the first corner of the game (9 mins). This was cleared but, following a resulting throw-in by Aspinall, Craney turned superbly past Wharton again and from the by-line his cross was headed out for another corner. Bowling punched this clear from Aspinall's flag-kick but the keeper was also given a free-kick for being impeded by Hallows.

    Altrincham continued to have the upper hand, with Craney very impressive, and Hallows and Holt promising to combine well up front. After Craney had been fouled, Talbot got on the end of Adams's free-kick and forced a full-length save from Bowling, to his right (13 mins). There was then an unfortunate incident when Craney caught Bonsall going for a 50-50 ball near the half-way line, in front of the main stand. Craney caught the on-loan player from Harrogate as he won the ball. After treatment from physio Dave Pover, Bonsall was stretchered off and taken to hospital with what was feared to have been a serious injury. Play resumed with a dropped ball (15 mins) and Kevin Parr came on to make up the numbers.

    The first serious threat to Alty's goal came when a long ball skidded off Band's head to Denham but from inside the box his delayed lay-off went to Shuttleworth. Alty replied with Holt getting on to the ball on the left and from his cross, Scott's instinctive shot just cleared the bar (18 mins). Talbot then made a fine clearance which found Scott, who chested the ball expertly to Holt, but only a throw-in came from Scott's resulting cross. However, Adams's cross from the left soon forced another Alty corner off Pearce, on the Alty right. A foul by Wharton on Craney gave the Robins their fourth corner of the game when Bowling fumbled Adams's free-kick over the by-line. Shuttleworth's low, driven corner yielded another corner, on the left. From this, a weak clearance at the near post came to Rose whose shot from six yards came back off Bowling's right upright (25 yards). Band then found Hallows whose fine turn won him his side's sixth corner. From this, taken by Shuttleworth, Talbot headed goalwards. Bowling punched clear and Craney's resulting shot from just outside the box was only just too high (28 mins).

    Eastwood did get in a deflected shot which ran comfortably for Coburn but it was Altrincham who were still on top and good work from Talbot and Shuttleworth allowed Adams to feed Hallows on the left where Keeling came across to concede corner number seven. From the left, Aspinall's corner prompted a goalmouth melee after an Alty header had been only half cleared. Finally, Band's shot was saved. Alty continued to press with Craney in sparkling form but his next effort went very high from a throw by Shuttleworth (39 mins). Indeed, when from Adams's pass, Craney went down under a challenge from Todd just inside the box, there was a plausible appeal for a penalty. Then a low drive from Shuttleworth was fielded by Bowling at the second attempt (40 mins).

    As half-time approached, Denham got behind Band but Talbot cleared to give Celtic their first corner of the match. From the left, this was cleared. But, soon after four minutes of added time had begun, a short passing movement found Eastwood to the left of goal and he drove a low shot from 25 yards across Coburn and into the far corner of the net to give Celtic the lead, decidedly against the run of first-half play (42 mins). It could have got worse when Denham got into a good position just before the break but Band covered well (44 mins) and half-time arrived with Altrincham trailing by the single goal of the game.


    The first opening of the second half saw Rose sky the ball over the top from 20 yards (47 mins). Following a throw on the right by Aspinall, Scott fed Craney, who was clearly pulled down by Keeling as he turned past a defender just inside the right, front corner of the penalty area. No one protested when Mr Turner pointed to the spot and Steve Aspinall strode up to send Bowling the wrong way as he put the ball to the keeper's left (48 mins). It was Steve's fifth successful penalty of the season, four from normal play and one in a shoot-out.

    Next, from a Rose cross, Hallows controlled the ball but was forced to settle for a corner on the Alty left (50 mins). Then, a fine clearance from Talbot saw Hallows's fine chip just clear the bar from 25 yards (52 mins). However, Denham then got up the left and won a corner off Aspinall. This was cleared and Alty now brought on Hardy for Shuttleworth, who had been having a good game on the Alty left (53 mins). This change allowed Alty to have three men up front. Mr Turner soon annoyed the home crowd when he overruled his linesman and penalised Holt instead of giving him a free-kick. Nevertheless, Aspinall and Holt soon combined well but their move ended with Hardy's poor cross from the right (55 mins). But moments later a shot from Hallows from 20 yards or so was half blocked and the ball bobbled up for Holt who despatched it cleanly past Bowling, from 12 yards left of goal, to put Altrincham ahead (56 mins).

    Stalybridge replied when a rasping 30 yarder from Keeling forced Coburn to an excellent finger-tip save, diving to his right and this gave Celtic their third corner of the match (57 mins). Three minutes later Craney responded with a superb volley from 35 yards which dropped only inches wide of Bowling's left post. Stalybridge now pressed for an equaliser and Rose had to do well to see off Eastwood and concede a corner. Alty got in a bit of a mess from the corner and were fortunate only to concede another corner kick, this time on the Celtic right. After this, a Celtic free-kick soon maintained the pressure.

    Altrincham now replaced Hallows with Stuart Wright (63 mins). Soon Hardy and Holt combined well but a throw-in was the only result. Alty won a free-kick just outside the box when Craney was brought down and then accidentally trodden on. After Eastwood had then shot very wide, it took a fine tackle from Adams to stop Denham getting clear. Adams injured himself in the process and though he continued, he played out the game holding his right arm gingerly as if he might have injured his collar bone or shoulder (68 mins).

    A punt upfield then saw Talbot pursuing Denham, who went down as the two entered the Alty box's outer-right edge. Mr Turner unhesitatingly awarded a spot-kick and booked Talbot, his first caution in his 27th game of this season. Coburn dived to his left and got a hand to the ball but Eastwood's spot-kick was too good for him to keep out (71 mins). After the resumption, Adams found Wright but the Alty man was fouled. As Craney and Aspinall stood over the ball, 22 yards out Aspinall drove the free-kick low, towards goal, from left of centre and somehow Bowling got nowhere near it before it entered the left of his net to make it 3-2 (73 mins). Altrincham almost wrapped up the game soon afterwards when Holt's fine shot from the left edge of the box came back off the inside of the Celtic post, with Bowling beaten (75 mins).

    Rose then went down after an aerial challenge, to add to the afternoon's catalogue of injuries, With Craney making gestures to the bench apparently suggesting it was Rose's previously dislocated shoulder which was hurt again and that a substitution would need to be made, it looked ominous for Altrincham. However, after treatment from Gary Thompson, Rose resumed though he still left the pitch at the end of the game in some discomfort. Stalybridge now brought on German for Bowman (76 mins). A lashed shot into Golf Road from Denham preceded his side's winning a corner when Rose made a fine intercepting header (79 mins). Stalybridge now pressed Alty back and Rose's late tackle on Todd earned him a booking. Following this, Smith shot well over (80 mins). Alty continued to absorb Celtic's advances and made their final change just as four minutes of added time were announced. Steve Lunt came on for Holt, who had made an impressive debut and left to strong applause (86 mins). After Todd had fed Denham, the Celtic man won a corner off Rose which Scott cleared. Lunt then got superbly past German on the right and ran forward before finding Aspinall, who had hared up into the Celtic box but who was judged to be offside and deprived of a potential hat-trick. The resulting free-kick led to Denham getting the ball, left of the Alty goal, and he slipped past two defensive challenges before crossing to the unmarked Eastwood who completed his hat-trick from close range (87 mins).

    After the re-start Craney had jinked past German expertly, even though the Celtic veteran had fouled him, but Mr Turner amazingly halted the advancing Craney to award him an unwanted free-kick, much to the home supporters' annoyance. German was booked (88 mins). Though Craney won another late free-kick on the edge of the box, Aspinall curled the free-kick over the bar just as he was announced as the Altrincham Man of the Match. He now joins Ian Craney as Alty's top marksman this season, with five goals.

    Yet again, Altrincham had drawn a game they should have won and have now drawn 13 of their 23 league matches this season. There was a promising debut from David Holt but it would be hard to point to any Alty player who did not play well today.